High health care costs are not an abstract math problem for families: Speaking up at rate review

by Rosana G. Ferraro |

Insurance regulators assembled Anthem and ConnectiCare Insurance Companies for an informational hearing on their rate increase requests Wednesday morning, in a windowless room on the 7th floor of 153 Market Street in Hartford.

We were there, too, speaking up for people struggling to afford their health care.  We were there because we continue to believe in our vision of a health care system that works for all of us.  We were there because even if our testimony doesn’t impact the outcome of the process, it is important continue to elevate the concerns of real people – and ask for real solutions to the challenge of rising health care costs.

Our testimony focused on the need to address affordability, because high health care costs are threatening people’s health and pocketbooks.  We believe that requires everyone to work together, and the inclusion of consumers at the decision-making tables.

Rate review is an actuarial exercise for regulators, but rising premiums are not an abstract math problem for families.  Higher health care costs make for hard choices between getting care and other basic household needs.

The cost of health care continues to rise and this impacts health insurance rates.  If we keep ignoring the enormous elephant in the room of health care costs, we will continue to see those costs rise – and people will continue to suffer with poorer health and financial hardship.

Rates could go up, on average, anywhere from 9 to 13% – but people are not getting a 9-13% raise in their paycheck.  We think consumer affordability must be addressed.  What good is health coverage if people are paying more and more to be under-insured?

Others showed to speak up, too. 

  • A broker, Jennifer Lovett who told the story of a couple paying $30,000 a year in premiums, when they make $70,000 a year – that’s a whopping 43% of their annual income paid out in premiums – before they pay a cent in out-of-pocket costs.
  • A father, Marc Sandy Block who told the story of his son working two non-profit jobs and struggling to afford health insurance.
  • Ted Doolittle, the State Healthcare Advocate, who challenged those in the room to start looking for better answers to addressing health care costs – and called out those insurance companies who don’t participate in the state exchange (Access Health CT). He also pointed out that just next door, in Massachusetts, some good policies have helped.
  • Matt McDermott, from CONECT, a faith-based advocacy group, who told his own story about struggling with health care costs – and the stories of people struggling with costs across different congregations represented by CONECT.
  • And there were many more public comments submitted online, many with similar concerns.

For a deeper dive into this issue, you can check out a few resources.