Senators And House Republicans Ask For Health Insurance Premiums Data

Monday, July 22, 2013

Te senior Republicans on the U.S. Senate and House health policy committees and subcommittees Monday pressed the White House to release data it has collected on health insurance premiums in 34 states, after the administration released a report last week highlighting premium information in just 11 states.  

Senator Lamar Alexander of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Representatives Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) sent a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asking the agency to make public the remaining information about insurance premiums, so consumers can plan ahead for their health care costs next year, when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is implemented. 

The members write in the letter: “We believe it is essential that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide transparent pricing as soon as possible for the millions of Americans who will be impacted by this law. 

“The Wall Street Journal recently reported that HHS has collected insurance premium filings for 34 federal and federal-state partnership exchanges but does not intend to release this information to the public until September. Rather than release this premium information to the public, you stated in a press briefing that ‘negotiations are underway and we will be negotiating rates across the country.’ According to an administration source, insurers are being informed whether their rates are similar to other insurers. These negotiations have been conducted behind closed doors, without assurances that a fair process has been observed or that the negotiations will result in better insurance products for consumers. The Wall Street Journal described this process as ‘running ObamaCare as a black-ops mission.’

“Open enrollment on the exchanges will begin Oct. 1, 2013. Delaying the release of premium information until September will only serve to limit the amount of time individuals and families have to budget for the substantially higher insurance costs many will face.  As previously noted in a congressional report, rates in the individual market are expected to increase as much as 30 to 40 percent on average in 2014 A separate congressional report on the internal analyses of America’s largest insurance companies showed that insurers were planning for average premium increases for new customers in the individual market of 96 percent, with spikes as high as 400 percent.

“We are equally concerned about the potential impact of premium increases on small businesses.  A recent poll of small businesses found that 41 percent have frozen hiring because of the health care law while 19 percent said they had reduced their number of employees because of the law. Another 38 percent of businesses said they have pulled back from plans to expand.  For small businesses trying to offer insurance to employees, premium increases could mean further job cuts and lost growth.  Publicizing insurance rates as soon as possible will give America’s job creators time to plan.” 

The members ask Secretary Sebelius to provide all filings, including rate information, received by HHS from insurers applying for qualified health plan status on the federal and partnership exchanges.

They also ask for the methodology that HHS uses to determine when to negotiate with insurers regarding their exchange proposal and how HHS determines whether an insurer’s rate conforms with another insurer’s rate. They request to know what information HHS shares with insurers including information that may be offered to one insurer but not another (and the reason why) and what, if any, incentives of any kind HHS uses to motivate insurers to change their rates.

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