bigstock 173513822HARTFORD: Connecticut Chamber of Commerce executives and their health insurance marketing partner the Chamber Insurance Trust announced they are responding to the healthcare cost crisis by overhauling their benefit programs to address the escalating costs to Connecticut businesses.

There are more than 65 Chambers of Commerce in Connecticut serving ten of thousands of members across the state, they operate six existing regional Chamber Benefits Centers across Connecticut.

The Chambers are producing informational events throughout the state and selected members are being designated as Chamber Healthcare Navigators. The Middlesex Chamber is hosting an event on October 11, Danbury October 18 and Norwalk and the Fairfield Coast Chambers on October 19. The New Haven Chamber is organzing a business healthcare summit to be held at Long Wharf Theater later in the month, date to be announced.

The first meeting was held on September 6, at the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Candice Corcione, Executive Director of the Tolland County Chamber helped organize the multi-chamber event.

Corcione, said, “businesses in our 13 communities are practically shouting from the rooftops, about the increasing healthcare costs. As a Chamber executive my number one responsibility is to help our region’s companies address their problems.

Sometimes we’re advocating for them at the State Capitol or organizing events to help get more business, but the rising costs of healthcare have become a priority.”

Chamber execs cited The Kaiser Family Foundation report that the cost per employee in Connecticut averaged more than $6,545 in 2016, the fifth highest in the Continental US, trailing, only New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

The Connecticut Department of Insurance has authorized rate increases for 2018 of as much as 31.7% for the individual market. Anthem Blue Cross/ Blue Shield, Connecticut’s largest insurer, was authorized to increase rates that average more than 25%, for the majority of their small business and non-profit market.

Nearly all of Connecticut’s major health insurers have posted double digit rate increases.

To gather more direct information from companies the Chamber executives said they are launching The Connecticut Healthcare Response Survey, to get “extensive business feedback and data from every corner and company segment across Connecticut.”

JoAnn Ryan, president of Connecticut’s Chambers of Commerce Leadership Council, and president of the Northwest Chamber of Commerce, in Torrington said, “from Danbury to Danielson, members are telling Chamber leaders that increasing healthcare costs are strangling their businesses.

We’re hearing that its causing many to forgo investment, reduce or hold back new employment and to seek outsourcing solutions, typically out of state or overseas.”

Ryan added, “the Chambers have used our combined member power, working with our healthcare marketing partner the Chamber Insurance Trust [CIT] of Orange, run by Steve Glick to provide access to quality and affordable health plans for more than two decades.

Steve and Sally Glick owners of the Chamber Insurance Trust have been recognized by Business New Haven as its Innovators of the Year and Small Businesspersons of the Year.

CIT’s CEO Steve Glick said, “most of the media and political attention has been about the Affordable Care Act and the individual market. While we can argue the cause, there is no doubt about what is happening in the marketplace and what the increases mean to Connecticut companies.”

Glick added, “There are policies that the Federal and State governments can do to help, we are not waiting. We’re innovating, we’ve researched, negotiated with providers and are creating new and exclusive solutions offered only through Connecticut’s Chambers.

Glick added, “the idea of managing your healthcare costs, once a year at rate renewal, is over for most companies, especially those with 10-20 employees and Connecticut’s middle market companies. The bottom line solution is long term cost control, transparency, and shared risk with other quality companies.

The only way a middle-market company can contain healthcare costs is by taking control of the expenses, Companies need to pay less for the insurance plan’s administration, marketing and profits, they need to reduce claims through management and wellness, better manage the drug benefit and a have a health plan designed for their unique company.

Aaron Glick, Executive Vice President and in-house Counsel for CIT explained that CIT and the Chambers are focusing on Connecticut’s middle market companies saying, “we all know about Connecticut’s problems with several big headquarters companies, but the state was recently ranked #17 in middle market companies in the country. These firms are the drivers, innovators and sustainable companies, that are the future. Healthcare costs have moved to the top of the list of management issues.”

Disclosure: Second Wind Media Ltd. Publisher of Business New Haven and performs some marketing support functions for the Chamber Insurance Trust.