Bill ending secrecy of health insurance rates advances

A bill to let the public see health insurance rate information passed the state House of Representatives.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler proposed House Bill 1220  on behalf of all of the consumers who contact his office, demanding to know what's driving higher health premium. Current state law prevents him from sharing the information that insurers submit to justify rate requests – even after the rate's approved.

"For most families, health insurance is their largest bill next to their mortgage," said Commissioner Kreidler. "Yet what's causing their costs to increase is secret. In today's tough economic climate, people deserve to see where their money's going."

Kreidler's proposal makes the information in a health insurance rate filing public shortly after it's received. This includes how much of the proposed rate will go to:

• Pay medical claims

• Cover administrative costs – including salaries

• Profit

Two of the major health insurers in Washington – Regence BlueShield and Group Health Cooperative – support his efforts to make health rates public. The third major carrier, Premera Blue Cross, sought to have the bill amended to make rates public only after they've been approved, claiming that the information would only confuse consumers and disrupt the market.

"Health insurance rates have been rising dramatically in recent years," said Kreidler. "I believe that people paying premiums deserve to see why. Far from confusing people – I think it empowers them."

Several other states already make health rates public, including Oregon.

Rep. Christine Rolfes, of the 23rd district is sponsoring the bill.

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