|By St. Louis Post-Dispatch|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
This is happening despite the fact that one of the main objectives of the Affordable Care Act was to stop skyrocketing health insurance costs for consumers. The law specifically seeks to prevent insurance companies from overcharging policyholders and requires that regulators review any request for a rate hike of 10 percent or more.
But what may look like overcharging to you and me doesn't look that way to the insurance industry.
One of the loopholes in the law is that it does not give anyone -- neither the state nor the federal government -- authority to deny rate hikes.
Reasonable and justified or excessive and unreasonable -- doesn't matter. They all go through.
The theory is that consumers will compare rates on an Internet-based clearinghouse and decide where to buy insurance. In the ideal model, the marketplace will do its job of regulating commerce by giving consumers the information they need to make informed choices.
HHS has posted information on the
If it sounds like your government isn't doing much to help you make smart decisions, you're correct.
For example, a look at the site turns up requests such as one by
The site also provides details about the rate increase request, answering anticipated questions such as: "Why does my insurance company want to raise my premium?" and "What kinds of
Nearly all the insurers say the increases they are seeking reflect the rising cost of health care. Hello? Health care experts and economists say that health spending the past three years has been the slowest ever recorded in the 52-year history of the National Health Expenditure Accounts.
We're thinking a better explanation is for the hikes is, "Because we think we can get away with it."
Most of those who will be hurt by the inaction on rate request hikes will be small businesses and people who do not have employer-provided insurance and must buy it on their own.
Federal officials concur, and say rates were reduced an average of three percentage points due to the review process.
Consumer advocates have weighed in with a differenct perspective. They say that the increases being sought are the result of how the insurance companies operate, especially with regard to plans that create groups of people with expensive medical conditions that are expensive to insure instead of spreading the cost across a larger pool of clients.
This will not be allowed after 2014 under the health care law.
But before that happens, the Republican-controlled
There's plenty of criticism to spread around here but most of it goes to the Republicans who campaigned against the anti-Obamacare bogeyman, rather than setting up the insurance exchange that will ultimately be helpful in implementing the consumer-friendly aspects of the ACA.
Instead, good luck muddling your way through this one. Chalk up one for the insurance industry.
here's the federal (hhs) site linked to the missouri pages: http://companyprofiles.healthcare.gov/states/MO/rate_reviews?search_method=rate_reviews
here's missouri's: http://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/health/publicSearch.php
(c)2013 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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