The ability of states to protect individual and small group policyholders from excessive premiums can be compromised by weak laws, inadequate regulatory agency staffing, and the ability of insurers to deem their rate-hike justifications “trade secrets,’’ according to a report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
The report reviewed insurance laws in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and did follow-up interviews with regulators in 10 states, including Connecticut.
In Connecticut, the authors focused on a controversial October rate hike that Anthem won without the state Insurance Department holding a public hearing.
State law requires that rate filings be reviewed within 30 days, or they are deemed approved. The report noted because the Insurance Department has “good relationships with insurance companies’ actuaries, they tend to try to work things out through a back-and-forth dialogue with filers.’’ The reported also noted that agency staff said “it was rare for them to formally disapprove a rate filing.’’
Connecticut regulators maintained that the October rate increase was justified. They noted that time constraints and short staffing are contributing factors to their decision-making, according to the report. The department rejected the claim that it rubberstamps rate increases.
Acting State Insurance Commissioner Barbara Spear recently rejected another Anthem rate request that would have raised premiums 20 percent for some policyholders.
The General Assembly considered a bill in the 2009 session that would have required public hearings for certain insurance company filings. The measure did not pass, but may be brought up again when the legislature reconvenes in January.
Connecticut received a $1 million federal grant to make health insurance plans and costs more accessible to the public.