It's a great day for consumers and small businesses, said State Sen. Chip Shields
February 16, 2010 -- Despite heated objections by health insurance companies, state regulators at the Oregon Insurance Division finalized rules on Tuesday (Feb. 16) making every part of their rate filing open to the public.
The new rules solidify aspects of House Bill 2009 passed by the 2009 Oregon Legislature that require insurers to disclose more information about expenses and give regulators more authority to consider whether premium hikes
“Consumers now will be able to see everything their health insurer provides the state when they request a rate change,” said Teresa Miller, administrator of the Insurance Division. “We look forward to providing even more information to Oregonians about potential rate changes and receiving their input through a new public comment process.”
Oregon’s five largest health insurers along with the national trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, argued in comments
to the Division that the new rules would expose trade secrets, harm competition and increase rates.
Several implied they might sue. A representative for LifeWise called the rules unconstitutional, but none put it quite as succinctly as Theresa Neibert, manager of regulatory advocacy and consulting for Kaiser.
“These new rules will invite instability, confusion, uneven treatment of carriers and litigation,” Neibert wrote. “This may embroil the division in costly litigation.”
The Insurance Division basically called their bluff.
State Senator Chip Shields (D-Portland) said it’s a great day for consumers and small businesses. “I’ve been very impressed with Teresa Miller’s leadership on this,” said Shields, who was a vocal supporter of the new regulations. “It took a lot of courage to say no we need to have complete transparency with these rate filings.”
In Oregon, health insurers must justify premium rates for individual, small group (2-50 employees) and portability plans. The state does not have authority over large group or self-insured health plans, which insure the majority of Oregonians.
Rate filings were made public starting in 2006, but consumer advocates who've tried to challenge premium increases since then have faced difficulties because insurers were allowed to redact key information
. A case against a 26 percent increase on Regence individual health plans in 2008 is still ongoing.
Shields urged consumer groups to make use of the full public disclosures and push back against excessive health insurance hikes. “This allows every day people and consumer groups to contest those rate increase which would not be possible if they are able to redact and hide the information,” Shields said.
New rules adopted today put in place reforms passed by the 2009 Legislature. These include:
- A 30-day period for the public to comment on rate requests. To learn more click here
- More detail about what insurers spend on salaries, broker commissions, marketing and advertising and other administrative expenses.
- Ability to consider an insurer's overall profitability rather than just costs for a particular type of insurance such as individual health plans.
For related stories on rate regulation click here.
To review rate requests click here.
To read the Division's press release click here.
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