Despite heated objections by health insurance companies, state regulators at the Oregon Insurance Division finalized rules today 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 are justified.“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.
Health insurance companies should have to justify premium increases. And small businesses and consumers should be able to contest the outrageous premium increases that are squeezing Oregon's middle class. But there's no way to contest premium increases if the insurance companies are holding back key actuarial data from their rate filings. You can't contest what you can't see.
The dream team included public interest lawyer Linda Williams; health care economist Larry Kirsch, spouse of Karen Kirsch who contested Regence's 2008 rate increase; Oregon Small Business for Responsible Leadership's Ann L. Fisher ; Cessco Inc. HR manager Sean Moriarty; and former Health Net VP Rick Skaylan. They joined with OSPIRG's Laura Etherton to argue forcefully that no part of a rate filing can justifiably be withheld from public scrutiny. Etherton and OSPIRG have been at the forefront of fighting this battle from the start.
Senator Chris Edwards (D-Eugene) and I were prepared to pass SB 1029 this session if the Insurance Division decided against rate-filing transparency. You can read about it in our Blue Oregon post from last month.