CU calls on WA Senators to pass insurance reforms

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April 1, 2011

Consumers Union Urges Washington Senate to Pass Bill
to Make Health Insurance Rate Filings More Transparent

Lobbying Intensifies as Premera Works to Weaken Reforms;
Vote Expected As Early As Monday, April 4

Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, urged the Washington Senate today to pass ESHB 1220, a bill that would make health insurance rate filings public and give consumers access to critical information about their health insurance premiums. Lobbying on the bill has gotten intense as Premera Blue Cross works behind the scenes to weaken the proposed reforms. A vote by the Senate is expected as early as Monday, April 4.
“Current law in Washington keeps health insurance rate filings confidential, leaving consumers and small businesses in the dark about why their rates are rising,” said Sondra Roberto, staff attorney for Consumers Union. “Making these filings public will hold health insurers more accountable for how they spend premiums on medical care and administrative overhead. And consumers and small businesses can make more informed choices when they have access to this type of information.”
ESHB 1220, as amended by the Senate Committee on Long Term Care, would enact a number of important reforms, including:
• Makes health insurance rate filings for individual and small group plans available for public inspection 10 days after the Insurance Commissioner determines that a filing is complete. Rate filings contain a health insurer’s explanations and assumptions used in developing premium rates. Filings for new products would be exempted from disclosure for one year or until the next filing.
• Provides consumers with new plain-language disclosures about their health plan, including a three-year rate increase history for the plan; any portion of the increase attributable to mandated changes; the number of people impacted by the increase; the impact of benefit changes; the rate at which medical costs are expected to increase for the filing period; and the expected percentage of premiums that will be spent on medical care.
As a vote on the bill approaches, Premera is reportedly pushing lawmakers hard to weaken the legislation. Under an amendment sought by Premera, the public would have access only to summaries of rate filings and just for rate increases exceeding ten percent.
“ESHB 1220 is a better proposal for Washington,” said Roberto. “The Senate should reject Premera’s amendment because insurance companies should have nothing to hide when it comes to meeting their customers’ needs for affordable health care.”
Michael McCauley – 415-431-6747, ext 126