State Health Exchange Hikes Assessment Rates
Connecticut’s state-run health insurance exchange has hiked assessment rates on individual and small business premiums by 12%.
Despite objections from legislators and the business community, Access Health CT’s board of directors increased the assessment rate June 22 from 1.65% to 1.85%.
The decision will result in an increase of $3.7 million on fully-insured health plans for calendar year 2024 and $1.85 million in fiscal year 2024.
The board’s vote comes just two weeks after exchange staff emailed state lawmakers, urging them to oppose landmark legislation that would have lowered healthcare costs for small businesses and their employees.
That email contained a series of misleading statements about the bill, which had broad bipartisan support and was backed by more than three dozen employer groups and nonprofit organizations.
Lawmakers ultimately failed to act on the bill before the legislature adjourned for the year.
Exchange staff cited declining revenues over the last four fiscal years and increasing costs as justification for the rate hike.
They attributed revenue declines to “the shrinking of [the] fully insured small group market caused by employers moving to self-funded products” and “new costly requirements by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, the state and the Internal Revenue Service.”
The withdrawal of most insurers from the fully insured market, new rate requests, the failure of the exchange to successfully service small businesses, and the annual addition of costly new health benefit mandates all contribute to the rapidly shrinking fully insured market.
State Rep. Kerry Wood (D-Rocky Hill), co-chair of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, told the exchange board that assessment hikes will further weaken the “already extremely sensitive” small business market.
“I just think that raising the assessments is counterintuitive to the goals we’re trying to do with strengthening the exchange,” she said.
CBIA and the National Federation of Independent Businesses also opposed the costly rate hike.
“Connecticut small employers struggle every year to keep up with rising healthcare costs,” CBIA’s Wyatt Bosworth said, adding that the fully insured market was “on life support.”
Staff compensation and equipment represent Access Health’s major cost drivers, with salaries set for a 5.9% increase over the current budget and equipment costs rising 14%.
“We continue to work everyday to find—to make ourselves, sort of, more efficient, to minimize cost on the industry,” Access Health CEO James Michel said.
The rate hike will only exacerbate the five-year trend of small employers either migrating to the self-funded market or dropping coverage all together.
As of 2021, the small group fully insured market enrolled 109,471 lives, down from 235,337 lives in 2017.
In addition, Access Health’s small business exchange barely exists, with an enrollment of just 3,000 lives.
As the market continues to shrink, Access Health CT should be working to lower the cost of health insurance, not further burdening struggling small businesses and their employees.
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