Health insurance rate review authority by Montana State

Best insurance stock option today - Review Authority Health Insurance Rate : Despite changes in federal regulations, health-care costs are still a concern for most Montanans. However, legislation proposed for this coming Montana legislative session could help ensure that all Montanans will at least be treated fairly by insurance companies looking to increase their rates.

The legislation, House Bill 87, which is being promoted by Montana State Auditor Monica Lindeen and sponsored by Rep. Jeff Welborn, R-Dillon, will give Lindeen’s office review authority for insurance rate increases. This might seem to be a minor issue, but Montana is only one of three states that currently have no authority to review insurance rate increases, Lindeen said.

As state auditor, Lindeen has the authority to review insurance rates in all other categories includ-ing home, auto and life. This has allowed her to reduce rate increases that have seemed too unjusti-fiably high.

It also allows her to make sure rate increases are legal, said Lindeen spokesman Lucas Hamilton.

The lack of review authority also gives insurance companies the ability to take advantage of Mon-tanans. Lindeen sites a recent example where a health insurance company proposed rate increases around the country. The average increase was 18 percent, but in some cases customers saw their rates increase by 50 percent.

These rates were challenged by Montana’s neighbor South Dakota, which has health insurance rate review authority. South Dakota negotiated a lower rate increase with this particular insurance company on behalf of its citizens. Montana wasn’t allowed the same benefit and customers of that particular insurance company were forced to accept the rate increases with no discussion.

Another benefit to the rate review authority is that it benefits the health insurance industry as a whole in Montana by bringing fairness to the marketplace. Lindeen will have the authority to review rates that are too low and attempt to undercut the market, said Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana spokesman Fred Cote.

Without state review authority, insurance companies could run rates much lower than the market standard, upsetting the balance in the market and also running the risk of becoming insolvent, Cote said.

For the health insurance industry it will provide an independent review of rates, which will help consumers ensure the increases are justified, he said. This is a bill that Cote said Blue Cross and Blue Shield will support.

The federal government, through the Affordable Care Act, also has health insurance rate review authority when rates increase by at least 10 percent. However, the local review authority is a better option for Montanans because local regulators will better understand local markets.

During the 2011 legislative session, a similar bill was tabled in the House Business and Labor Committee after a compromise was reached between the auditor’s office and a handful of Montana health insurance companies along with the Montana Chamber of Commerce and the Montana Small Business Alliance. Mysteriously, this commonsense bipartisan legislation was a casualty of the opposi-tion to President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

HB 87 represents the same compromised bill from the last session. Let’s hope this time around legislators can see the benefits for Montanans and give the state auditor the review authority her office needs.

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