Monday, February 28, 2011

Insurance commissioner: Premera is "stonewalling" on public disclosure of rate information

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler today issued an open letter to health insurance consumers, calling for public disclosure of health insurers' rate requests.

"This is a critical week of the legislative session," Kreidler wrote. "Our biggest battle is still underway -- ending the secrecy of health insurance rates."

Under current law, the insurance commissioner's office is barred from disclosing virtually all the information submitted by insurers to justify health insurance rate requests. Kreidler wants to release those documents to the public, so they can see what’s driving health rates and comment on rate requests. Oregon and nearly a dozen other states have similar policies already.

Two of the state’s largest health insurers – Regence BlueShield and Group Health Cooperative – agree that rate information should be transparent. But a third – Premera Blue Cross – is balking, and only wants insurers to see the information once rates have been decided.

"I'm deeply troubled that Premera isn't willing to let you -- and their own policyholders -- see what's really driving health care premiums," Kreidler wrote, adding that he hopes they'll change their mind and help "put an end to the pointless secrecy of health insurance rates."

"We all know that health insurance rates have been rising dramatically in recent years," he wrote. "I believe that the people paying the premiums deserve to see why."