Posted on 13 Aug 13 by Annie George
Connecticut consumers got their first look Monday at the price of health insurance plans to be sold on a state public health exchange this fall for coverage next year.
Regulators at the state Insurance Department reviewed rates proposed by insurers and made modifications to them.
On Monday, the department released all of the approved monthly rates. This concludes a process that started in May when insurers such as Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut, ConnectiCare, UnitedHealthcare and HealthyCT submitted their proposals for health plans to be sold through the new online marketplace, or exchange.
The lowest-cost plans for individuals are offered by ConnectiCare Benefits Inc., according to documents posted Monday afternoon on the Insurance Department's website. Health insurance premiums have to be approved by the department before they can be sold on the health exchange, called Access Health CT.
In order to show the extent of coverage within health plans, each is categorized based on a scale of precious metals — platinum for the most robust coverage, followed by gold, silver and bronze. Platinum rates were not published in documents released Monday.
The ratings are based on the percentage of a person's health expenses that the insurance will pay, compared with how much a person pays out of pocket in deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance. For a standard person, a platinum plan would cover 90 percent of health expenses and the customer would pay 10 percent out of pocket. Gold covers 80 percent of health expenses, silver covers 70 percent, and bronze covers 60 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent health policy institute.
ConnectiCare Benefits has been approved to sell individual plans at the following monthly base rates: $215.17 for bronze, $269.66 for silver and $309.64 for gold. These are base rates only and could be different for individuals based on age and where a person lives in Connecticut.
Anthem and HealthyCT also were approved to offer individual plans on the state exchange. Anthem's rates were $236.59 for bronze, $299.21 for silver and $346.91 for gold. HealthyCT's rates are $245.45 for bronze, $310.02 for silver and $321.22 for gold. Aetna withdrew its application Friday after rejecting the Insurance Department's modifications to its rates.
"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, the state exchange.
Now that the Insurance Department has approved the price of health plans, the exchange will conduct its own review of each.
"Our staff will be examining these rates closely in the days ahead, and look forward to providing more information on what residents can expect when they come to Access Health CT," Counihan said.
In some cases, insurance premiums would have been more expensive if insurers weren't held back by the Insurance Department. State regulators said some plans overestimated the price growth of medical and pharmaceutical goods and services. For example, Anthem assumed an 8.57 percent increase in medical costs, and the department revised it to 6.5 percent.
The base rates don't take into consideration federal discounts, or subsidies, for people whose income is as much as 400 percent of the federal poverty level. The discounts are offered on a sliding scale for individuals earning as much as $44,680, or for a family of four earning up to $94,200.
In addition to individual health plans, several insurers are offering small-group plans on the exchange. The least expensive plan varies by tier and by insurer. Anthem's approved monthly base rate for a person within a small-group plan is $277.95 for bronze, $351.42 for silver and $407.37 for gold. HealthyCT's rates are $298.05 for bronze, $340.96 for silver and $390.05 for gold. UnitedHealthcare's rates are $271.91 for bronze, $361.26 for silver and $435.72 for gold.
Health exchanges in each state are a direct result of the federal Affordable Care Act. In Connecticut, anyone can shop for health insurance starting Oct. 1 on Access Health CT to buy coverage for the 2014 calendar year. People who already have health insurance through an employer or a government-funded plan, such as Medicare or Medicaid, are not affected and may keep the coverage available to them.