Rate hikes would prompt public hearings in Connecticut

If insurers operating in Connecticut want to increase their premium rates, they might first have to submit to public hearings if Gov. Dannel Malloy signs legislation into law.

A bill, which has already passed both the state House and Senate, would require the Connecticut Insurance Department to hold a "symposium" when insurers propose rate increases of 10 percent or more. The insurance commissioner would retain his right to hold a hearing for other proposed rates at his discretion, the Hartford Courant reports.

"Recent history proves that public input is critical in the health insurance rate review process," says Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who is the former state healthcare advocate.

The symposia would provide a forum where the public could comment on the proposed rate increases and the attorney general could call and cross-examine witnesses. The insurance commissioner would be required to consider the public's input in his rate review rulings, reports the Connecticut Watchdog.

According to the bill, an "excessive" rate is unreasonably high for the insurance in relation to the underlying risks and costs based on the insurer's experience, past and projected costs, transfers of funds, rate of return on assets or profitability, reasonable margin for profit, and any public comments received.

Insurers also would have to notify policyholders of the proposed rate increase, including how much their policy will change, as well as information about their right to submit public comment about the rate change.

The mandatory hearings would start Jan. 1, 2012, and end when health reform law provisions take effect in 2014. State officials said the mandatory hearings would cost taxpayers less than $200,000, notes the Courant.

To learn more:
- review the Connecticut bill
- read the Hartford Courant article
- see the Connecticut Watchdog story

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