CT insurers challenge AG seeking to stop hearing on health insurance rates. That is why. [Hartford Courant]

CT insurers challenge AG seeking to stop hearing on health insurance rates.  That is why. [Hartford Courant]

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais on Tuesday challenged Attorney General William Tong who urged the state Insurance Department to cancel a meeting scheduled for Aug. 15 of the group that evaluates the number of double digits that insurers want.

Tong asked the agency to wait while Congress considers extending the tax credit that he said could reduce the need for higher rates.

In a letter to Mais, Tong said the U.S. Senate is expected to debate and vote this week to increase the tax revenue that Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Benefits Inc. It is expected to expire on January 1st.

Two insurance companies and the State Insurance Department believe that Jan. 1 the end of the tax credit was a “significant driver” behind the additional requests, he said.

“Increasing the tax credit would be a game changer and would greatly reduce the need for more,” said the attorney general. “It would be a dereliction of our duty to consumers to continue to hear about prices that appear to be incorrect.”

If Congress expands the Federal Advance Premium Tax Credits, requests to raise rates should be revised and reflect savings for consumers, Tong said.

Responding to Tong, Mais rejected the erroneous argument that the end of the subsidy on December 31 will drive requests for a double-digit increase. Expiring tax credits were not identified in the letter as a “significant” driver of lower costs, he said.

The meeting of Aug. 15 you will continue, Mais said.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and insurance companies must have their rates in early September so that health exchanges can prepare for open enrollment to begin Nov. 1, he said.

Spokesperson Kimberly Kann said ConnectiCare supports Gov. Ned Lamont, state representatives and lobbying organizations to continue the High Tax Cuts provided in the American Rescue Plan Act. The tax increase would help keep insurance more affordable, he said.

ConnectiCare will monitor the control center and adjust its requests as needed, Kann said.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut said its pricing will reflect its expertise and ability to “serve on behalf of consumers in this market.”

“This goal will guide our next steps as we learn more and we will continue to work with the government as the regulatory process continues,” the insurer said in an email.

Insurance companies that sell policies and leave Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act exchange submitted proposals in July seeking a 20.4% increase in health care plans next year. For small group plans, the carrier is asking for an increase of about 14.8%.

The proposal was criticized by several state lawmakers as well as health care and consumer advocates who said the increase was excessive and could hinder access to health care. Critics say the increase in health insurance premiums is unsustainable because consumers are already struggling with the highest rate of inflation in 40 years.

ConnectiCare cited the cost of medications and drugs as well as the continued impact of COVID-19 on member utilization, including delayed treatment.

Tong and other elected officials last month asked the Department of Insurance to organize a hearing as a forum to question insurance regulators and provide an independent analysis. Mais rejected the idea, saying that the Department of Insurance will organize hearings that have been held in the past, based on testimony from consumers, consumer advocates, elected officials and other interested groups.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the tax bill would cut the cost of prescription drugs for adults. And U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., urged the Department of Insurance to “take a serious look at unaffordable premiums.”

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected].

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