The state’s Insurance Department will hold a public hearing Monday to address Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s proposed rate increase, which if approved could increase rates as much as 32 percent.

Some of the 56,000 Connecticut residents enrolled in Anthem’s individual insurance plans will be allowed to testify at the public hearing.

Also the state Healthcare Advocate and Attorney General were granted limited-intervenor status which means they will have an opportunity to present one witness and cross-examine Anthem’s witnesses.

The department is not required to hold public hearings for rate increases, but the decision came after pressure from the public and elected officials like U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney..

The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, July 20 at the Department of Insurance offices, Room 701, 153 Market St., Hartford.

Anthem President David Fusco wrote to Attorney General Richard Blumenthal this week saying the company would share Anthem’s rate increase application and other confidential materials.

In a phone interview Friday Blumenthal said he agreed to accept the information, but refused to keep it confidential.

“The increasing need for medical services, the use of new, expensive prescription drugs and advanced technologies are driving up the cost of health care,” Fusco wrote in his letter to Blumenthal

After reviewing some of Anthem’s information, Blumenthal said the company’s rationalization for the rate hike is, “unjustified and unwarranted.”

Lembo questioned why Anthem would need to raise costs when it has indicated in communications with shareholders that the company was doing great. He said Anthem is being less than honest about either its earnings or its need for a rate increase.

He said the rate increase which Anthem has proposed would also come in October, which means those on high-deductible plans waiting for their benefits to kick in would have a hard time claiming some of their medical expenses if they have a health savings account.

“Thirty percent is outrageous when most people are just trying to hang on to their jobs,” Lembo said.

Anthem’s spokeswoman did respond to requests for comment Friday, but on July 8 said that the company is “working closely with the Department to ensure that we provide any additional data or analysis to support their actuarial evaluation of the requested increase.”

However, even state insurance regulators agreed last week that the 22 to 32 percent rate increase Anthem is seeking is “too high.”

“The rate Anthem requested is not necessarily the rate they are going to get, but some level of rate increase on certain policies will be needed based on adverse claims experience,” Debra Korta, spokeswoman for the state Insurance Department, has said.

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July 18, 2009