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Premera BlueCross stonewalls rate transaparency bill

Premera BlueCross is being accused of "stonewalling" a Washington state bill that would allow the public to scrutinize an insurer's rate request package, including actuarial formulas and reasons behind a rate hike, for individual and small-group plans before the rate is approved.

Instead, Premera wants to let consumers see a rate request only after the state has approved it and wants to bar consumers from seeing actuarial data, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Eric Earling, a Premera spokesman, said insurance rate proposals change between request and approval, so sharing initial proposals with people could cause confusion, according to The Columbian. "We believe the posting should be public once the rate is effective rather than when it is filed," he said. "Otherwise, market confusion can result because the rate request (filed) is not always that which is finally approved and which is then provided to members."

Besides, Premera already gives customers a breakdown showing where their healthcare dollars go and has worked with legislators to actually broaden the bill's disclosure requirements, he says.

But Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler argues that waiting until a new rate is set continues the secrecy, the Seattle Times reports. Two other large insurers agree. Group Health Cooperative said the current system allows "far too much shielding of information on the real costs of care." And Regence BlueShield said it is committed to increased transparency as a "tool for addressing the inequities and cost drivers that threaten the long-term viability of the system as a whole."

If Kreidler's bill becomes law, it could post rate information and easy-to-use summary pages online for public review. The summary information could include how many people would be affected by a rate change, historical data on a company's rate changes, and a breakdown of how much of a proposed rate change would go to medical and administrative costs, including salaries, and company profit, notes The Columbian.

To learn more:
- read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article
- see the Seattle Times story
- check out The Columbian piece

Related Articles:
Plans should limit surpluses if they want rate hikes
States' rate review programs receive $200M boost from HHS
Insurers, consumer advocates clash over benefits brochure; Linkwell offers coupon program;

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