Health Insurer Filings are now on the Department of Financial Services Website
Senator Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau) announces that consumers will now be able to check out detailed information regarding rate hike requests by health insurance companies in New York, on a new Department of Financial Services website (http://www.dfs.ny.gov/insurance/health/prior_app/prior_app.htm).
“Under a law passed in 2010, known as ‘prior approval,’ we mandated that insurers seek approval from the Department whenever they request certain rate increases,” said Hannon. “The law took effect this year, and almost immediately the insurers protested and began fighting against disclosing their rate hike requests.”
The insurers objected to the new law claiming their rate hike applications held “trade secrets” and other specious arguments. New York State was prepared to take the insurers to court to enforce the law, but in the past month the major insurers begrudgingly agreed to make the information public without a court fight.
“Consumers need to understand what causes increased health care costs,” said Hannon. “If the insurance companies are going to request double-digit rate increases, those who are paying the premiums deserve to know why.”
Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky agreed with the Legislature, saying that transparency and competition will help control insurance costs. In September, DFS determined that rate increase filings should be disclosed so the public could provide meaningful comments as part of the rate review process.
Ten major insurers and the industry trade group, the New York Health Plan Association, responded with formal objections, but last month, the insurers agreed to drop their objections so the filings could be made public without going through a protracted legal process.
Rate applications available on the website contain all the information needed to determine whether a premium increase is needed.
“We passed prior approval in 2010 in response to the rapidly rising cost of health insurance premiums,” said Hannon. “We believe that transparency, public scrutiny and comment will help to keep rate increases to an absolute minimum. We don’t deny that their costs are going up, but we demand they let the public know what exactly is driving up their expenses.”
By going to the Prior Approval Law website, consumers can access:
· A summary of the amount of money the insurer spent in the last two years on medical claims, which is used to project future claims expenses. Commonly referred to as “medical trend,” this information is the basis of the premiums paid by policyholders;
· The actuarial memorandum, which specifies all of the actuarial assumptions used in analyzing how much medical claims are going to be in the coming year;
· The amount of administrative expenses and profits;
· A list of all benefit changes, such as copayments or drug benefits, which have been made to the policy; and,
· Which policies are affected by the rate increases, which geographic regions will be getting increases, and the number of policyholders affected.