Blumenthal wants reform for insurance rate hikes

Nick Rees Feb. 25, 2010, 3:28pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has called for sweeping reform to the state approval process for individual health insurance policy rates.

Blumenthal was joined in his call Thursday by Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo, House Speaker Christopher Donovan (D-Meriden) and Insurance and Real Estate Committee Co-Chairmen state Sen. Joe crisco (D-Woodbridge) and state Rep. Steve Fontana (D-North Haven).

The group is seeking health insurance reforms as a means of stemming recent rate increases for individual health insurance rates. Over Blumenthal and Lembo's objections, an increase for Anthem individual policyholders of 13 to 20 percent was approved by the insurance commissioner last year.

"The Anthem situation is symptomatic of the need for an overhaul in the rate review process," Lembo said. "Why is it that people, individuals and business, have accepted increases in their insurance premiums? It's because they've had no power to change the outcome, no voice in the process. That all changes today."

Blumenthal's proposal for reforms would require public hearings for all insurer-proposed rate increased requests and compel insurers to notify all policyholder of rate hike applications and dates of public hearings.

The reforms would also require every application to be approved, denied or modified by the Insurance Department. Rate increases, under current law, may go into effect without department action.

Additionally, the reforms would presume that submitted information for a rate proceeding is public. The burden of proof to show why it should not be disclosed would be placed on the insurer.

The Attorney General's Office and the healthcare advocate would be empowered to intervene as parties in all rate cases by the reforms, which would also authorize the Attorney General's Office, the healthcare advocate and consumers to appeal rate decisions to the Superior Court.

"Massive health insurance rate hikes should be given strict scrutiny, not secrecy," Blumenthal said.

"Stopping rate increases requires reform - giving consumer advocates and the public a strong voice and open view. We propose reforms that tear open secret proceedings - providing small businesses and consumers a voice in rate hike proceedings, and giving scrutiny to crippling health insurance costs.

"Public, consumer advocates must be given fair standing to fight these hikes."

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