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Contact: Steve Jensen
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Recent proposed or approved rate hikes by two major health insurers are an unfair burden on tens of thousands of Connecticut senior citizens already struggling to pay for their medical needs, State Comptroller Nancy Wyman said today.

Wyman, who procures health insurance for 166,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents, said the boost in Medigap premiums will hurt those who need coverage most.

``I do not think that our senior citizens can endure these kind of increases," said Wyman, whose elderly parents have recently had a variety of serious and costly health problems. ``I have first-hand knowledge about the financial burden that medical care can put on the elderly, and I am very concerned that these increases are a signal of things to come. What we allow to happen to our seniors today may happen to us tomorrow."

The higher rates also have been decried as excessive by a number of advocates for the elderly, consumer groups and labor unions.

Tens of thousands of seniors, many on fixed incomes, could pay hundreds of dollars more each year for health coverage under the increases approved last week for AARP/United Health Care and proposed by Anthem/Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut. Wyman noted that while the most recent Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was about 2 percent, the rate increases could boost some premiums by nearly 25 percent.

A typical senior citizen with a Social Security income of $787 per month, for example, would get a COLA increase of about $16 per month. Under one of the proposed Medigap increases from Anthem/Blue Cross, the same senior would pay $12 more per month, or a total bill of $133, for coverage.

Medigap plans are private insurance purchased to supplement coverage under the federal Medicare program. More than 70 percent of Medicare recipients across the country have the supplements, which typically cover prescriptions, deductibles and procedures not paid by Medicare.

The state currently provides supplemental medical insurance for about 27,600 Medicare-enrolled retirees and their dependents.

Last week, the state Department of Insurance approved a rate increase averaging 24.4 percent for AARP/United Health Care, which provides Medigap insurance for more than 50,000 state members of the American Association of Retired Persons.

A decision on the average 10-percent increase requested by Anthem/Blue Cross , which has about 120,000 Medigap policyholders in the state, is expected to be made by Dec. 5.

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For Immediate Release
October 27, 1997
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