Monday, January 31, 2011

Hearing Thursday on transparency for health insurer rate increases

A state Senate committee will hold a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Olympia on a couple of our key legislative requests.

The first -- and the less controversial -- is that we retain the authority to review health insurance rate hikes in the individual market (e.g. insurance you buy yourself, instead of get through an employer.) If this bill doesn't pass, our authority do review those rates on behalf of consumers will end at the end of the year -- and the feds will do it instead. This is Senate Bill 5398.

The more controversial bill -- at least among insurers -- is our proposal to make public all the information that health insurers send us when filing for a rate increase. As things stand now, much of that information is secret. Hundreds of consumers have told us that they feel they have a right to see it. And we agree.

We're arguing that consumers should have the right to see what they're paying for, and exactly what's driving the large premium hikes in recent years. Everyone's data would be released, making it a level playing field for all the companies. (The bill is SB 5120.)

We don't have to look far to see how this process would work, because Oregon is already doing it. What's more, that state's largest health insurer said it supports a transparent filing process.

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler testified about the transparency proposal last week in front of a House committee. Here's an excerpt:

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