|By Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
They shouldn't be.
Take the higher rates that
Based on applications submitted to the state
All told, the higher rates would bring
While a decision on the filings has yet to be made, how could such price hikes on average customers be necessary? How could state regulators, in whose hands these proposals now rest, call them justified?
Here's what makes it anti-consumer, not just in regard to
--Although the state insurance commissioner can call a public hearing on proposed rate increases, it rarely happens. The last such hearing was 10 years ago.
--Policyholders and others have 30 days to submit written comments to the department on a rate proposal, but insurance companies are not required to answer their questions and there is no way to publicly cross-examine their representatives on the need for a price increase.
--The department, in ruling on rate hikes, does not issue a written decision or give the public a rationale for the increase. So rate hikes are routinely approved and the cost of health insurance keeps going up, but state officials never tell Pennsylvanians why.
Any health insurance company worth its ad budget would think twice about routinely raising rates if it knew it had to defend price increases in public by taking questions and facing scrutiny of its spending -- especially if it's a nonprofit.
This is not how it works in other states, but Pennsylvanians are used to their government operating in ways that are decades behind the times.
The obvious way to fix the system is to require the
Consumer groups including the Pennsylvania Health Access Network have consistently advocated for a level playing field, but state officials, by their inaction, favor a landscape tilted toward insurers. If
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