As Arizona Dept. of Insurance Holds Health Insurance Rate Review Public Meetings, Groups Call for Increased Transparency and Consumer Involvement

Media Contacts
Diane E. Brown

Arizona PIRG Education Fund

This week, as the Arizona Department of Insurance holds public meetings on their proposed health insurance rate review rulemaking in Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff, public health and consumer groups will testify to the need for increased transparency and consumer involvement in the rate review process.

According to Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, “Across the country, when health insurers have proposed rate increases, transparency and opportunities for citizen involvement have led to significant cost savings for consumers.” Brown pointed to a recent St. Luke’s Health Initiatives and Arizona PIRG Education Fund report Getting All the Cards on the Table: The Premise and Promise of Health Insurance Rate Review in Arizona which highlights options Arizona has to better protect consumers against unreasonable health insurance rate increases.

Brown and others are encouraging the Arizona Department of Insurance to take the following steps to strengthen its rate review process:

Improving Transparency: For all proposed rate increases or decreases, insurers should be required to file a full range of information with the Arizona Department of Insurance. In turn, the Department should make this information publicly accessible, allowing consumers to make judgments about the quality and cost of their care, and enabling advocates to more constructively engage in the Department’s rate review activities. Disclosure should include a short narrative, including key reasons for the rate increase. Consumers should also be informed of any rate increases that have been deemed to be unjustified.

Consumer Involvement: The Arizona Department of Insurance should post all rate increase information on a prominent and easy-to-use website in order for consumers to research rate filings. The Department should also develop easy ways for consumers to comment on pending filings and hold public hearings on rate filings that it determines are significant due to the size of the proposed increase, the scope of any proposed benefit changes and the number of consumers affected.

Review and Prior Approval: Arizona should make its rate review process more effective in protecting consumers by strengthening the Arizona Department of Insurance’s authority to prevent unreasonable rate increases from going into effect.

Brown stated that although the Arizona Department of Insurance’s proposed rulemaking is not seeking prior approval at this time, prior approval is the strongest protection that could be provided to Arizona consumers in this rulemaking. Brown said that “ultimately Arizona’s health insurance rate review process will be most effective when state policy makers can deny an unreasonable rate increase from going into effect.”

Public comments can be submitted to [email protected] through May 24, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.