By Lisa Zamosky
Want to know which insurance companies are planning to raise their rates? For the first time, you can find that information at Healthcare.gov. Previously, only a few states throughout the country made this kind of information available online.
The federal health reform law now requires all health insurers planning to raise their rates by 10% or more for individual and small group plans to report the proposed price hikes to the federal government. Companies also have to provide justification for the increases.
The government wants states to have the ability to determine whether calculations and assumptions insurers’ make to justify the increases were done correctly. It’s also banking on the fact that by making the process transparent and available for public scrutiny and comment, insurers will feel compelled to more carefully consider raising their prices.
There’s evidence that public pressure works.
Last year, Anthem Blue Cross announced that it planned to raise rates for individual policy holders in California by as much as 39%. That made the large insurer the centerpiece in the debate about the need for health reform and more authority for regulators to keep insurance prices in check.
In the end, Anthem did raise its rates, but by an average of 14% — that’s a third of what it initially proposed.
In a White House blog post last week, Nancy-Ann DeParle, assistant to President Obama and deputy chief of staff for policy, said that costs can be reduced by holding insurers accountable and by giving consumers greater access to information about their health insurance choices.
She then went on to provide more recent examples of how rate review has thus far been successful:
“We’ve known for a long time that rate review works, but this week alone, we’ve received more news about how rate review is helping States fighting high premium hikes and saving money for consumers:
- In New Mexico, the State Insurance Superintendent rejected Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s plan to raise rates by 9.9%.
- In New York, the State Superintendent of Financial Services is requiring insurers’ justification of high rate hikes to be made available to the public for the first time.
- In California, Kaiser Permanente is decreasing premiums for small businesses and providing credits to those who had paid higher rates. The premium credits will total $13.7 million.”
You can check out your state and health plan to see what, if any increases, are on the horizon (if you don’t see your insurance carrier there, it means no rate increases are currently in the works).
And then sound off here: Do you think insurance companies should be required to make their rate hikes and the justification for them public? Post your comments below.
White House Blog: “Rate Review: Cutting Costs for Consumers and Small Businesses – Chapter One.”
Los Angeles Times: “Anthem Blue Cross is allowed to move ahead with rate hikes.”