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Many states have taken steps to ensure that there is a meaningful review of proposed health insurance rate increases for small businesses and individuals.
Pennsylvania, however, is headed in the opposite direction with legislation in the House and Senate that would keep more consumers in the dark and undermine the state’s ability to review most rate hikes.
House Bill 1983 and Senate Bill 1336 would extend rate review to insurance providers that currently escape any scrutiny, but they also reduce the Insurance Department’s authority to review and disapprove rates. The bill would give insurers license to raise individual and small business rates by 9.99% annually without any review at all. Small employers already struggling from the recession cannot afford continual rate increases and deserve to have better protection than this bill affords.
You can get more details in a memo that Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center Director Sharon Ward wrote to editors and reporters today.
Under current state law, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department has some authority to review rate increases. It is not a perfect system, but the Department has used it effectively to perform rigorous reviews of numerous rate proposals. According to a recent Government Accounting Office study, in 2010, 37% of rate filings were reduced or withdrawn after Insurance Department review, ranking Pennsylvania 9th in the nation.
Instead of curtailing the Department’s authority, lawmakers should improve upon it with greater transparency, citizen input and meaningful review of all rate proposals.