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Rising Health Costs, Not Obamacare, Are Increasing Insurance Rates In Connecticut

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Rising Health Costs, Not Obamacare, Are Increasing Insurance Rates In Connecticut"

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As Republicans remain hostile to Obamacare — GOP lawmakers have already wasted $50 million on dozens of failed attempts to repeal the law, and House Republicans have even threatened to shut down the government in order to block health care reform’s implementation — they often complain that Obamacare will translate into soaring costs for the health care industry. It’s true that health insurance rates are rising, but data from Connecticut suggests it has nothing to do with Obamacare.

Filings from Connecticut’s two largest health insurers, which both applied for double-digit rate increases this year, show that the insurance companies are not driving up their prices because Obamacare is leading them to do so. Rather, the rate increases are due to increasingly expensive health costs that are unaffected by the implementation of the health care law:

But the overwhelming reason for the rate increase requests is rising medical costs, the filings by Anthem, Aetna and ConnectiCare say. The companies say this is mainly because providers are raising their prices and patients are getting more care.

“People are accessing more services and hospitals, doctors and labs are charging us more,” Aetna spokeswoman Susan Millerick said.

The costs associated with the Affordable Care Act account for only a tiny fraction of the requested increases — less than 1 percent. These amounts cover the costs of the preventative women’s care benefits and the changes in cost sharing, said Paul Lombardo, the actuary for the state Insurance Department who reviews the rate increase requests.

While health care spending did rise at double the rate of inflation in 2010, a report by the Health Care Cost Institute confirms Connecticut’s findings and concludes the rising prices are due to the health costs that crept up during the recession. In fact, Obamacare will help address this very issue. The health care reform law represents part of the solution — not the problem, as Republicans claim — as it seeks to help make health insurance more affordable by reforming payment models, reducing payments to hospitals, and prioritizing quality of care.

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