Brown: A health insurance vote to pay attention to in October - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Brown: A health insurance vote to pay attention to in October

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Diane E. Brown, a Gilbert resident, is the Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. The Arizona PIRG Education Fund conducts research and education on public interest issues. More information can be found at www.arizonapirgedfund.org

Posted: Monday, September 24, 2012 7:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu Sep 27, 2012.

While many Arizonans are determining how they will vote in November’s election, a vote will soon be taken in Arizona that can impact how we learn about health insurance rate increases.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires review of any proposed premium health insurance rate increase of 10 percent or greater. Under the law, insurers must file information with the federal government and make that information public, and either the state or the federal government must determine whether the increases are justified or unjustified. In order for Arizona to join over 40 States and be granted status as a State with an Effective Rate Review Program, the Arizona Department of Insurance must ensure transparency and opportunities for public input, among other provisions.

While ultimately Arizona needs to prevent unreasonable health insurance rate increases from going into effect, rate review offers a way for Arizona to oversee insurers’ premium increases and provide better consumer protections. In fact, millions of dollars have and can be saved for consumers through robust transparency and public participation in the health insurance rate review process.

Fortunately, these days “transparency” and “public input” have become almost as American as baseball and apple pie. Although presidential, congressional, legislative and other candidates may not agree on much, transparency and public input transcend political affiliations and Arizonans have embraced the ability to receive information and have their voice be heard.

While ADOI theoretically agrees and has stated its commitment to transparency and public input, in practice these components are missing from their proposed rule on rate review. Before voting, we encourage the Governor’s Regulatory Review Council to require ADOI to demonstrate its commitment to public transparency and meaningful opportunities for public input by codifying these elements in the rule.

In addition, GRRC should require ADOI to notify the insurer and the federal government at the same time regarding unreasonable rate increases; clarify the cost for promulgation of this rulemaking; describe how consumers are being protected by ADOI’s proposed rule vs. current federal government implementation; and explain why they are not granting themselves the authority to deem a rate as unreasonable but solely relying on the results of an actuary.

Since the federal government is providing, and will continue to provide, information on premium health insurance rate increases of 10% or greater for Arizonans and since there is no deadline for Arizona to act, we encourage GRRC to require ADOI to revise its proposed rule to include the above measures prior to their vote.

Indeed, every vote matters. Providing transparency and opportunities for public input on health insurance rate increases of 10 percent or greater can save Arizonans money. And that is something for which Arizonans can unite and overwhelmingly support.

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