"Price Of Health Reform: Insurers Ask Higher Rates Than Expected"

SO much for Obama's health care promises on insurance premiums.

Sept. 19--As health insurers file their first post-reform rate-hike requests, a rift is becoming clear: Insurers such as Aetna and Anthem are seeking far higher increases than federal officials and consumer advocates had anticipated.

At the same time, the years-old debate continues to rage about whether medical costs justify the upward march of health premiums.

For Connecticut employers and insurance customers anxiously awaiting prices for 2011, there is no simple rule of thumb. Some plans will rise sharply if they didn't previously offer features now mandated by reform, while others will see only minor adjustments, according to regulators, company filings and industry experts.

But one thing is clear -- the rate increases will heighten an already fevered debate about whether the health insurers are bilking the public or just passing along costs they cannot control.

Connecticut regulators in recent days approved increases of more than 20 percent on some health plans starting Oct. 1, including a series of rates requested by Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, by far the largest health insurer in the state. The immediate changes mostly affect new customers buying health insurance on the individual market, not those who are in group plans through employers, or existing members of individual-market plans.

The higher prices, however, are a glimpse of what may be in store later this year when insurers propose new rates for 2011. . . .



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