Insurance rates are being filed, consumers need to pay attention

By Dena Mendelsohn on Friday, May 2nd, 2014

In every state this summer, customers, advocates, and politicians will hopefully stop speculating and find out what health insurance plans want to charge in 2015 – that is, if we can get the federal Health & Human Services department (HHS) to release the details of these rates. That’s why Consumers Union joined with over 60 other advocacy groups nationwide to press for transparency from HHS.

Until these rate filings are submitted, anticipating what health insurers will do falls somewhere between educated opinions and anyone’s guess. The reason is simple: many key variables are unknown. Health insurance companies have to balance their desire to push for big increases against Obamacare restrictions, and also account for ACA provisions that reduce risk and uncertainty for them. As one expert put it, trying to predict 2015 health insurance rates is like “like nailing Jell-O to a wall.”

Insurance customers, as well as organizations like Consumers Union, play an important role in calling attention to unreasonable rate hikes. Without our oversight, insurers can jack up rates with little or no justification. Depending on your state, access to rate increase details varies, but one thing remains consistent: the more voices are heard, the more pressure there is on insurers and state officials to rein in premium increases.

Accessing health insurance company rate filings ranges from easy, such as in California where almost all of them are public, to impossible, as in Florida. You can check this guide to determine what type of information you’ll be able to get in your state. For more detailed information, check out our overview that covers state laws on, public access to rate documents, and how you can get involved. Don’t let yourself be convinced that this is too complicated; your voice is too important to count yourself out!

If you are able to submit comments and participate in a hearing, that’s great. You can also write to your state regulator describing your personal story about the effect an increase will have on your family. Anything you do is better than nothing. If you want to get involved, please let Consumers Union know by emailing dena [dot] mendelsohn at consumer [dot] org or tweeting to @CU_Health. And don’t be shy: let everyone know the steps you take to contain health insurance rates by tweeting with hashtag #ratereview2015.

Keep your eyes on this blog. May is the start of the rate filing period and we will be posting a series of blog posts helping consumers navigate their way through the rate review process. For more details in the meantime, check out Consumers Union’s rate review web page and click here to join our movement and receive periodic updates and communications from Consumers Union Advocacy on this and other topics of interest to consumers like you.

38 Responses to “Insurance rates are being filed, consumers need to pay attention”

  1. Frank Adamick says:

    The AMA should be strongly involved in this effort as well. They certainly have a vested interest to keep the insurance companies honest & forthright. They’re also one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the U.S.

  2. Mal Gaff says:

    I want to add my name to those who press for transparency from HHS.

  3. Terry Foust says:

    We need to have full transparency HHS and the White house on the insurance rates for 2015. Please help to get action on this subject.

    Thank you,
    Terry & Sandra Foust

  4. Clare Watts says:

    I want complete transparency on rates and mechanisms by which too high rates will not be allowed.

  5. Alan Kardoff says:

    While on Medicare myself, there are many family members and friends who aren’t. They will be affected directly by rates that are too high. Also, Medicare recipients may be hurt too, The GOP has repeatedly called for the repeal of Social Security & Medicare.
    We need complete transparency on rates.

  6. Susan White says:

    It is getting worse with Obama Care not better as I have seen from some unbelievable bills, so unless transparency is the word of the day, we will have nothing better in this country. Come clean!! I believe it was all in the plan, but maybe if enough of us consumers rally together, we just might be able to make a difference. We need to be as one against the corporate and government evils!!

  7. William J. Leitold says:

    To hold President Obama and the House and Senate Democrats accountable for price increases, it’s vital that insurance rates and the underlying reasons for those rates be made public before they go into effect.

    Rate transparency is required by the Affordable Care Act (Obama care) and is critical to hold politicians accountable to consumers and voters.

    To make sure the public can effectively review,comment and question the politicians on these proposed rates before the elections, I ask that you release as soon as you get:

    • David Citron says:

      To hold INSURANCE COMPANIES accountable for price increases, it’s vital that insurance rates and the underlying reasons for those rates be made public before they go into effect.

  8. Constance Bevitt says:

    I am firmly convinced that our health care costs are so much more than other developed countries because we have no clue about costs. We also have no way to compare hospitals or clinic costs let alone health care organizations.

    Just try to find dental insurance. There is no single place to go to get a comparison of coverage, participating dentists and costs. It is a major task for most people to even begin a comparison.

    Shine a light on the medical and dental industries. Consumers deserve to know.

    • William Leitold says:

      We care about costs because that is what CU readers do. But most people do not care about health care costs as lon as a third party picks up the bill.

  9. Larry Beaird says:

    CT has ACA health ins. My wife had to retire @ 62 so she purchased ins through the exchange. The coverage is good and affordible. Of couse we have no idea what the cost will be next year but I just read a report from the CBO and ins company executives that the cost will go up a little or not at all. More people have purchased ins through the ACA and state exchanges which will keep the cost lower as long as the exchanges in your states continue to keep increasing enrollment. I feel bad for people who live in states that do not participate as they are not benfiting from it as much as we are.

  10. Fred Powell says:

    If this does not work it will drive the confidence in this government to a new low.

  11. Mary McVea says:

    Profiting from medical treatment is immoral and unjust. Surely, you know this.

    • William Leitold says:

      Profiting from health care is how the invisible hand works. If there was no profit in it, we have to turn it over to a religious order; maybe Franciscans’. That would be very grim.

  12. master redfox says:

    I do not live in a state where the cost is AFFORDABLE unless you are making an income that puts you in the 15% tax bracket because it comes from “investment”.I make what is classified as “middle class” wages which puts me in the 35% tax bracket. Cost health insurance for a bare minimum bronze plan is equal to a car payment and insurance monthly which doesn’t cover anything until $5000 out of pocket cost is meet on top of this cost. I don’t see any doctors that much to have that much of an expense. I don’t need more cost I need less. I want to remain out of debt.I also don’t want to pay more when someone who able bodied to work stays home to collect welfare and gets better health coverage than i do

    • William Leitold says:

      So if I understand correctly only15% of the people in your state have health care? For year the “Government” has been telling us that 85% of the people have healthcare, I had no idea.

  13. Anne Pertuset says:

    We try to keep from having to go to the doctors, and buy medicine. Not sure what else we can do at 80 years old. We have a Medicare Advantage Plan, which is what we can afford. No frills.

  14. Nick Cortese says:

    Hold insurance companies accountable to consumers for the high rate increases and the reason why especially when they are making record profits.

    • William Leitold says:

      Given your description of your husbands condition not going to a doctor is a very poor personal choice.

  15. Sharon Young says:

    Insurance rates are outrageous and insurance companies need to be held accountable. It’s next to impossible for me and a large portion of the population to afford healthcare. I worry every day about the softball size growth on the back of my husband’s head and the loss of his vision. He refuses to go to the doctor because we can’t afford insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses. The rich get richer while the rest of us pinch pennies.

    • William Leitold says:

      It is silly to seek to be a customer of a monopoly vendor; single payer health care.

  16. julie Nutt says:

    The fact that there were no real regulations on insurance companies, medical cost from doctors or hospitals or pharmaceutical companies has always been known about this American Health Care Plan…they can charge what they want. And unless we get single payer health care this AAHC benefits the man with the big money to just get more of the regular guy’s money. Or we stay sick or we die. It is disgusting that this is all we got in this country for health care…there are some small benefits but you will pay for them!!! And there is nothing in this bill/law that will stop prices from going up…Sad! A wimp of a health care act.

    • William Leitold says:

      Your state does not have Medicaid and Medicare; your governor is one powerful guy. What foreign country is this?

  17. LouLou says:

    In our state, our Governor is REFUSING to let Obama care be used by anyone living here! He IS the problem as well as hurting the elderly, the indigent and people who HAVE NO INSURANCE because of the HIGH COSTS of it!
    I want to see TOTAL TRANSPARENCY from ALL INSURANCE companies. RATES SHOULD HAVE A CAP ON THEIR CHARGES!!!

    • William Leitold says:

      What did you have before Obama care and how much did that cost. Your complaint about the high cost since Obama care has also occurred in other states.

  18. girl cousin says:

    The cheapest insurance policy I could get in Indiana is an Athem bronze for $1050 a month, 60/40 split. This is for two adults and a teenager. This is in excess of 15% of our gross income. We get no voucher because, being working class we are SO wealthy….and the Athem policy puts BOTH HOSPITALS out of network. It doesn’t matter what you think you’re buying, if you are in the private market you are just f*cked.

    • William Leitold says:

      Did you contact your insurance company and ask what they would pay for your eye surgery? What would they pay? It seems to me that it is very nice of your eye doctor that he’d accept whatever an insurance company would pay, don’t you agree?

  19. Robert Murphy says:

    Every other developed country requires medical charges be posted publicly in a Drs’ office. Japan, Germany, France ,Scandinavia etc….
    Recently, I could not learn in advance for the price of two eye surgeries I needed. The Dr’s office told me they did not set their own prices, rather they had to accept what the health insurance companies paid them. So I had no chance to comparison shop in advance.
    This is an extortion racket the insurance companies have lobbied your Congress for successfully.

  20. Thomas Kowalski says:

    I do not want a single payer system, look at the VA Hospital problems, but is there no one able to make a list of prices or ranges that other insurances will consider reasonable and offer a policy based on those figures that the ACA will consider establishing?

    • Richard says:

      If we had a single payer system their would be no need for the VA hospitals or their horrible system; which has been a problem since my Dad was in a VA Hospital after WW 2.
      Access to quality insurance for everyone would eliminate the poor care veterans receive.

      • William J. Leitold says:

        You’d like to be a customer of a monopoly system? That is what a single payer system is, that means no alternatives.

  21. cliff e peery says:

    The hard question to answer here, if not impossible, is how can capitalism serve both the medical profession(s) and the patients. I am a capitalist in philosophy but it seems it must be modified some how if we as a society believe all should have some level of medical service when there will always be some who will not be able to pay for it.
    whatever form of modification is chosen, there must be constant full transparency for it to serve both the medical profession(s) and patients.
    cliff

  22. Dave says:

    Folks! We need to know how our Doctors and hospitals are actually paid for the services they provide graphed and cross referenced by the procedures and insurance companies.

    Doctors need a price sheet for the prescriptions that they write. Often simple works just fine, they don’t have to push the latest drug the rep says is great. (often there are kickbacks from big Pharma) The government can negotiate better costs for meds.

    Often money we (our government) spends on research ends up having a drug company rake in big profits.

    Lastly, some countries ie Taiwan, use a universal health card that holds the patients complete health history, prescriptions, etc. The treating physician scans the card, the health notes made, the central health agency pays the doctor and the prescription sent to the drug store. Done This brings down costs of administration to 2%+ or -.

    Now lastly…. If you think about us and US competing on a world wide basis; we would DEMAND the complete streamlining of the system. If profit centers have to go SO BE IT! WE are fighting for the future of this Country!

  23. William J. Leitold says:

    Taiwan is not a good model for us; patient satisfaction has been up and down, in the past there have been widespread provider protests. In some cases doctor visits were running 2-4 minutes! Currently the whole system is in a deficit position; costs are outrunning revenues.

    Taiwan’s culture is very different then America’s. Taiwan has 23 million people.

    Richard if you know about kickbacks from big Pharma, you should report them to the US attorney.

  24. Dave says:

    William:
    What I’m suggesting, in my reference to Taiwan’s extremely low administrative costs methodology; Right now our system runs at 20%. It would be a tremendous advantage to reduce that to sometime under 5%! As to Taiwan’s culture being different; don’t be thinking that WE don’t have to change our way of going to be World Leaders.

  25. Dave says:

    And if you don’t think the current system has some corrupt areas, I suggest you do some research. Here’s a start: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/does-your-doc-have-ties-to-big-pharma-how-youll-be-able-to-find-out/