Testimony on 2022 Health Rates Filings

Testimony on 2022 Health Rates Filings

Connecticut Department of Insurance

August 31, 2021

Submitted By: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

On behalf of the National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing over 2,300 members, NASW/CT opposes proposed premium rate increases for health insurance plans before the Department of Insurance. These filings are from: United Health Care/Oxford, Cigna Health & Life, Aetna/CVS Health, Anthem Health Plans, Connecticare Benefits, and Harvard Pilgrim.

 Health care is a right, not a privilege, yet due to the continuing high costs for coverage far too many residents of Connecticut still cannot afford quality coverage at an affordable cost. This is particularly a problem for employees in small businesses where having an employer who offers comprehensive insurance coverage is unlikely, or for those who are solo private practitioners running their own business.

As an Association that represents social workers many of our members work in small non-profits or have their own private practice. I hear from these social workers who contact us seeking to find out if NASW has health insurance coverage for members. Unfortunately, NASW cannot offer a national plan, so I can only suggest they see if they are eligible under the Municipal Employees Health Insurance Plan (MEHIP) or they can contact an independent insurance broker. Neither MEHIP or a broker is a satisfactory answer as the options through these avenues are limited and still unaffordable for comprehensive coverage. It is ironic that a number of our members, who are health care providers, cannot afford comprehensive health coverage.

Rate increases in the small group market has increased annually, often by double digits. This cost increase has led to an increase in the already troubling trend of employers shifting costs to employees by increasing co-pays and deductibles, plus switching to plans with more restrictive coverage. The 2022 rate filings are, with one exception, all in the double digits ranging from 11.5% to 15.8%. The result of such increases will be having many small businesses, including non-profits, priced out of the insurance marketplace.

There are four plans filed for the individual market that have increases of 5.1%-12.3%, which for individuals is a hefty cost, especially in the current economic conditions brought on by Covid-19. Typically, those in the individual insurance market are employed in lower wage positions where employer based health insurance coverage is not offered or are unemployed, thus unlikely to afford any increase in health coverage costs.

Social workers work with individuals and families who struggle to make ends meet. Having a lack of affordable health coverage adds to the financial stress of such clients. It is not only a financial stress; it is a psychosocial stress of fearing what will happen if a serious health care need occurs. How will one pay for necessary care? What other costs will have to go unpaid? For parents the pressure of having an ill child when you do not have the means to pay for doctors, prescriptions and other care, can lead to anxiety, difficulty with family relations, and even depression. These are the hidden social costs that rarely are discussed in this debate. They are real costs with ramifications that go beyond simply health insurance coverage, with negative impacts that ripple into many non-medical aspects of life. As social workers we know that “life can change in a second” and when that change is a health crisis and comprehensive health insurance is unavailable, the results of that change can be devastating. This was the case BEFORE the pandemic and has been greatly exasperated by the pandemic.

Rising health care rates leads to increases in the number of CT residents who are either underinsured or uninsured. This in turn means preventative health care measures being not taken and when these individual’s seek health care for a medical condition it is far more likely at the point where the condition is more acute and costly to treat. Rising health care premiums are a direct cause of higher health treatment costs.

In the midst of a pandemic is not the time to increase health insurance premiums! NASW/CT urges the Department of Insurance to deny the 2022 requests before it for increases in health care premiums.

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