Business

Health insurance rate requests now public

Health insurance rate requests filed for individual and small employer (1-50 employees) health plans are now public. The complete filings received since July 1, as well as a summary for each request are at www.insurance.wa.gov.

Several health insurers filed rate requests prior to July 1, but have voluntarily made their filings public. They include: Asuris Northwest Health, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Regence BlueShield.

"It was a tough legislative battle, but worth it for consumers," said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. "The public deserves to see what's behind their increasing health insurance costs. For too long, they've had to simply take our word when rates are justified. Now the public can see the same information we see."

Kreidler proposed the legislation (HB 1220) making health rates public on behalf of all of the consumers who contact his office, demanding to know what's driving higher health premiums. State law prevented him from sharing the information that insurers submit to justify rate requests – even after the rate was approved.

The new law makes most individual and small employer health insurance rate filings public shortly after they're received. This includes how much of the requested rate will be spent on:

• Medical claims

• Administrative costs – including executive salaries

• Profit

Also, the public will see if their rate change involves any benefit changes.

Kreidler's office is building an interactive website where the public can search rate requests, post comments and sign-up to get an e-mail when their health plan files a rate change and when a decision is made. The new site is scheduled to go live early this fall.

"For most families, health insurance is their largest bill next to their mortgage," Kreidler said. "In today's tough economic climate, people deserve to see where their premium dollars are going."

The new law was sponsored by Rep. Christine Rolfes of the 23rd District.

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