Consumer advocates blamed skyrocketing health insurance premiums in Connecticut and other states on the industry's mergers and too little competition in a report Wednesday that calls for a new public health plan to vie with private insurers.
Insurance officials immediately challenged the data and conclusions of the report from Health Care for America Now, a coalition of organizations for reform, and called it politically motivated.
Connecticut Citizen Action Group, which is part of the coalition. "They make their money by charging more and providing less."
The report, released in different versions for each state Wednesday, came just as Connecticut's House of Representatives began debating major reform proposals that call for large insurance pools to compete with existing insurers.
A few private health insurance companies have built a near-monopoly in Connecticut, burdening customers with premiums that grew 8.2 times faster than wages from 2000 to 2007, the report says. The average annual combined premium for employers and employees in Connecticut rose 81 percent for family coverage, from $7,292 in 2000 to $13,173 in 2007.
Rising health care costs, not a lack of competition, are fueling premiums, and "this is a political document masquerading as a study," said Keith Stover, lobbyist for the Connecticut Association of Health Plans.
The state has a "vibrant and competitive marketplace," and "insurers are fighting and scrapping every day in the marketplace on both price and innovation," Stover said.
Connecticut has six health insurers compared with 15 in 1998. Anthem has historically been the largest here by far, currently with 1.4 million members. The report says Anthem had 55 percent of the state's market in 2007, though Anthem said its 2000-07 market share was about 50 percent, including Medicare and Medicaid plans.
The trade group America's Health Insurance Plans voiced concern that hospital mergers are contributing to rising health care costs. The group said government agencies have concluded health plans "operate in highly competitive markets" providing many choices for consumers.