Conn. Insurance Dept. approves rates for exchange

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Insurance Department on Monday approved rates for both individual and small group insurance plans that will be offered under the state’s new health insurance exchange, beginning this fall.

While the ultimate cost to an individual or small employer will depend on a variety of factors, such as location in Connecticut, the average rates in some cases were lowered following the extensive actuarial review by the department.

“This is good news because our preliminary analysis indicates that many residents in Connecticut may actually see their insurance rates go down, while for those who may see increases, they will be far less than was predicted even just a few months ago,” said Kevin Counihan, CEO of Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health insurance exchange.

The Insurance Department released the final rates from four insurers, including a nonprofit entity. They were originally submitted in May.

For the least expensive individual plan, monthly base rates for premiums range from $215.17 with ConnectiCare Benefits to $245.45 with HealthyCT, a nonprofit plan. Anthem Health Plans Inc.’s lowest priced plan will cost $236.59 a month. Earlier Monday, Aetna Life Insurance Co. announced it has withdrawn from participating in the exchange for 2014.

People’s monthly premiums, however, will vary depending on where they live in Connecticut, age and amount of federal subsidies they’re eligible to receive based on income levels. Many lower income people are expected to qualify for an expanded Medicaid program.

The Insurance Department also approved rates for small group plans, affecting businesses with fewer than 50 employees. For the least expensive small group plan, monthly base rates for premiums range from $271.91 with United Healthcare Insurance Co. to $298.05 with HealthyCT Inc. Anthem’s lowest priced plan costs $277.95. ConnectiCare recently withdrew from offering a small group plan.

Francis G. Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, credited Access Health CT and the Insurance Department with trying to ensure rates are affordable to people. Given the subsidies that will be available, she said many people who’ve been unable to afford health insurance should be able to get coverage. Padilla said the subsidies are supposed to help ensure people’s health insurance premiums don’t cost more than 9.5 percent of their incomes. Open enrollment begins Oct. 1.

“People are waiting with baited breath,” she said. “They need it. They really need it.”

Padilla called Monday’s rate approvals an important step. Consumers can now begin using Access Health CT’s online calculator to get a better idea of how much they qualify for in subsidies and which plans they can afford. The various tiers differ by how much the consumer pays in premiums.

Padilla said “the jury’s still out” as to whether some people will decide that it’s less expensive for them to opt out of the program. Currently, an estimated 350,000 people in Connecticut, out of a population of about 3.5 million, are uninsured. About 75,000 of those are expected to participate in the expanded Medicaid program.

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