Lawsuit claims HHS is hiding rate hikes in violation of ACA

Missouri consumer group says rates aren't released in time for public to comment

The Department of Health and Human Services is in the spotlight for claims it is violating the Affordable Care Act. 

The lawsuit was filed by Mehri & Skalet attorney Jay Angoff, who used to oversee ACA implementation for HHS. Filed on behalf of a Missouri consumer advocacy group, the suit claims the federal agency is not following through on its obligation to make rate filings for 2015 publicly available in time for the public to comment on them.

Missouri does not require insurers to file rates with the state or make them available for the public to comment. So Missouri residents rely on HHS for information relating to rate filings, notes the lawsuit.  

"In many states the insurer's justification for the rates it proposes are unavailable to the public, making it difficult, if not impossible, for consumer groups to challenge proposed health insurance rates increases," several advocacy groups wrote in April, when it asked HHS for information regarding rate filings, according to the Washington Post.

In response to the lawsuit, HHS spokesman Ben Wakana told the Post in an email that the department is committed to alerting consumers of rate information so they can make appropriate decisions before they purchase healthcare.

States have pushed for public knowledge of rate hikes ever since the healthcare reform law took effect. California previously voted to require insurers to publicly justify their proposed rate increases and authorize the state insurance commissioner to reject any rate hikes deemed excessive.

Angoff notes that if HHS were to make rate filings public information, it could lead to lower premiums, reports the Post. 

For more
- here's the lawsuit (.pdf)
- read the Washington Post article

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