CONSUMER AFFORDABILITY MUST BE PART OF THE RATE REVIEW PROCESS FOR INSURANCE DEPARTMENT

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August 3, 2016

With Connecticut's health insurers submitting proposed rate increases ranging from 6.60 percent to 28.20 percent to the Insurance Department, Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut stresses that affordability for consumers must be considered by the Department when rate hikes are evaluated.

While the Connecticut Insurance Department (CID) will hold public hearings for individual and small group rates for Anthem, ConnectiCare and Aetna health care policies, the CID has claimed that state statute does not direct them to consider consumer affordability standards when deciding if the proposed rate increases will be accepted or if they need to be adjusted.

“We come to the conclusion that affordability must become part of the Departmet’s charge,” said Lynne Ide, director of program and policy at Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, in testimony submitted to the CID. “We need affordability standards against which rate hikes are evaluated. The Department must be charged with looking out for all of us, not only the viability of the insurers.” 

In addition to submitting testimony to the CID, the Foundation also delivered hundreds of petition signatures from Connecticut residents who want the state’s regulators to consider what the financial impact will be for everyday people when making decisions.

Connecticut needs to look no further than its neighbor, Rhode Island, where the legislature took the initiative of putting affordability under their insurance department's charge, and the insurance commissioner incorporated affordability into the department's mission.

The CID is holding public rate review hearings on August 3 and 4 for Anthem, ConnectiCare and Aetna health plans.

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COALITION APPLAUDS U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FOR FILING LAWSUITS TO BLOCK THE ANTHEM-CIGNA AND AETNA-HUMANA HEALTH-INSURER MERGERS

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July 21, 2016

With the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announcing it will file lawsuits to block the Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana health-insurer mergers, the people now have the federal government in their corner when it comes to stopping these mega-mergers.

The DOJ is the arm of the federal government that is responsible for preventing anti-competitive behavior. Nine states and the District of Columbia have also joined the U.S. action against the Anthem-Cigna deal, including Connecticut, New York and California. 

Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, Connecticut Citizen Action Group, and the Connecticut Medical Society, a coalition opposing the mergers, applaud the DOJ for putting the interest of the consumer first and for acknowledging the harm these mega-mergers will cause the public. The coalition also appreciates the efforts of the Connecticut Attorney General in the matter.  

“The people of Connecticut and the nation now have a major ally in the fight against these mergers,” said Frances Padilla, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. “While these mega-mergers once seemed inevitable, when the facts surfaced, it became very clear to the Department of Justice just how harmful these deals will be to everyday people.”   

“This is an important first step in highlighting the significant deficiencies in these proposed mergers, and their negative impact on patient access to care in Connecticut and throughout the county,” said Matthew Katz, chief executive officer at the Connecticut Medical Society. “CSMS has expressed major concerns with giant health insurers becoming goliaths with exclusive or near-exclusive power to dictate price and care delivery to the detriment of patient medical care. We applaud the action taken today.”

“CCAG is pleased that Department of Justice recognized the damaging impact these Wall Street driven deals would have had on our health care system,” said Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. “It is now time for the executives of these companies to live up to their fiduciary responsibility by stop trying to rig the system for short term gain and to seriously work to help make it possible for people to access the care they need at a price they can afford.”

The insurance companies can now choose to go to court and fight the federal government’s lawsuit, or they can decide to settle with the DOJ outside of court or terminate the deals all together.

These mergers would transform the health insurance market by turning its five biggest companies into three. The Anthem-Cigna merger, in particular, would be the largest health insurance merger in U.S. history and impact 1.5 million Connecticut residents. 

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Growing National Outcry Over Insurance Mega-Mergers: 43 Medical, Consumer and Advocacy Organizations Express Grave Concerns to DOJ

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June 29, 2016

Forty-three state and national organizations have signed a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) expressing grave concerns about anti-competitive behavior seen in state reviews of the proposed mega-mergers of Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana.

The flawed review process in most states has led the 43 signatories to urge the DOJ to carefully review the mergers’ impact on each state and on the country as a whole. The DOJ has the expertise and enforcement power to protect people from the harm these mergers will cause.

The signatories represent a broad range of organizations, including state and national consumer groups, patient advocacy and health justice organizations, and state and national medicalassociations.

“Many of the grassroots organizations that are part of UHCAN's national network have signed on because we see far too many state regulators are rubber stamping these mergers, often in secrecy,” said Rachel DeGolia, executive director of Universal Health Care Action Network. “The regulatory process is inadequate and failing the American public. It's time for the Department of Justice to take a good hard look at what's going on and do the right thing. These mergers should be stopped."

"These proposed health insurance company mergers will stifle competition, raise prices and reduce choice for patients in Connecticut and dozens of other states.  Given the failure of several state regulators to carefully scrutinize these mega-mergers, it is incumbent on the U.S. Department of Justice to assert its regulatory authority now," urged Robert W. Seligson, president of the Physicians Advocacy Institute.

The letter was organized and delivered by a coalition comprised of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, Connecticut Citizen Action Group and the Connecticut State Medical Society.

This letter comes on the heels of an announcement last week from seven U.S. Senators calling on the DOJ to block two proposed health insurer mergers.

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Foundation Praises Seven U.S. Senators For Calling On The Doj To Block Proposed Health Insurer Mergers

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June 22, 2016

Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut praises U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) for calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to block two proposed health insurer mergers currently undergoing review.

The Senators raised their concern to the Department of Justice over the proposed Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mergers, stating that it could threaten jobs, increase premiums, and decrease access to quality health care.

"We applaud Connecticut's Senator Blumenthal and his colleagues for calling on the Department of Justice to turn down these two health insurance mega-mergers.  Evidence shows that such deals never benefit everyday people.  It’s about time that government regulators put the health and financial security of people first," said Lynne Ide, director of program and policy at Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut.

Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut has spoken out about the perils of the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna mega-mergers since they were first proposed.  Recently, the Foundation called on Connecticut's Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade to resign in light of mounting evidence of her personal and professional conflicts of interest as a former Cigna lobbyist. 

The full text of the Senators’ letter sent to the DOJ is available here, and Sen. Blumenthal’s press release can be found here.  

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Foundation Releases Petition Calling on Gov. Malloy to Ask Commissioner Wade to Resign

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Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut released a petition today with over 600 signatures that calls on Governor Dannel Malloy to ask the state's embattled insurance commissioner, Katharine Wade, to resign.

Commissioner Wade has come under increasing media scrutiny and criticism for her handling of two health insurance mega-mergers, Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna. According to advocates, the Insurance Department's oversight of the proposed mergers has appeared secretive and anti-consumer.

"Connecticut deserves nothing short of a robust, transparent and public-friendly review of insurance mergers, particularly since the Anthem-Cigna merger alone will impact 1.5 million state residents," said Foundation president, Frances G. Padilla. "We are sad to say that Commissioner Wade's insistence on not recusing herself from the review has left us with no confidence in the process. Our governor should put the interests of hardworking families first and ask Commissioner Wade to step aside. Then, he should ensure that the review process is overseen by an impartial official who runs a hearing that is transparent and open to real public input, including granting intervener status to appropriate parties."

The Foundation has raised concerns about the insurance mega-mergers since they were announced in 2015. Earlier this year, they called on Commissioner Wade to conduct a thorough, open hearing process that truly engaged consumers. However, they concluded that Commissioner Wade was too riddled with conflicts as information regarding her personal and professional connections to Cigna, as well as her secretive approval of the Aetna-Humana merger, came to light.

The petition states:

I am outraged about the state's poor oversight of the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger. I am not confident that consumer interests are being protected in light of the tainted process.

It appears impossible that Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade is able to preside over the process without a strong appearance of conflict of interest. You should ask Commissioner Wade to resign immediately. And once she has stepped down, Connecticut should start fresh with a new review of the Anthem-Cigna merger that is free of conflict, transparent and open to real public input.

Too much is at stake. You must take action now! We cannot hand over 1.5 million health insurance lives to Anthem without a fair, unbiased process.

Please do what's right for Connecticut! The people of this state are counting on you.

The Foundation's petition is in addition to petitions being circulated by other advocacy organizations, all
calling the Connecticut merger review process into question.

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