by Debra Judy, Policy Director

CCHI has long advocated for transparency and public scrutiny of proposed health insurance rate increases. On numerous occasions, we’ve suggested that public hearings should be a part of the rate review process here in Colorado. And it seems, there is growing support for this idea. First, the federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and now Governor Hickenlooper, have mentioned public hearings on proposed rate increases.

CCHI was a major proponent of Colorado’s Fair Accountable Insurance Rates (FAIR) Act, passed by the General Assembly in 2008. That law requires carriers to seek prior approval from the Division of Insurance (DOI) before putting new health plan rates into effect. Although the law requires DOI to file a rate filing summary on its website to provide notice to the public (and consumers can inspect rate filings), it does not establish a formal public comment process. Nevertheless, the DOI has allowed for the submittal of public comments on proposed increases. A good first step, but we have long believed that additional steps – notice to consumers of proposed rate increases when they are filed, an easier to use website to access filings, and public hearings – would facilitate public scrutiny of rates.

In a July 21 letter to Commissioners of Insurance, Kevin Counihan, Director of the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, stated, “public hearings are helpful.” The letter goes on to state: “Many states have found the use of public hearings helpful in rate evaluation. You and your staff undoubtedly have even more ideas to ensure that rates receive appropriate public scrutiny.”

This past week, in remarks to the public in Frisco, Colorado, the Denver Post reported that Hickenlooper’s administration would challenge proposed rate hikes.  According to the article, the Governor indicated regulators will “specifically go to the insurance companies and hold hearings and ask specifically, ‘Why is this so much higher?’ Because it shouldn’t be that much higher.”

The mountain communities have faced some significant rate increases over the past two years. While these rates may in fact be justified, it’s challenging for consumers to access and digest the filings currently. So, we agree with HHS and the Governor; hold public hearings so carriers can explain their rates and consumers can seek answers to their questions.

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