Bill sheds light on health insurance rate hikes

(AP) - A bill presented to the Legislature on Friday would give families more insight and input in the health insurance rate-setting process at a time when premium hikes are far outpacing increases in most people's paychecks.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, presented AB309, which adds transparency to certain health insurance data current law protects as "trade secrets."

"It makes information that is used to justify rate increases readily available to the public," Oceguera said.

Providers would have to post information online indicating their loss ratio, or how much money they are taking in versus the amount they are paying out in claims. They also would be subject to a public hearing if they raise rates more than 10 percent, or if they plan a rate change and have more than 5 percent of the market share.

Under AB309, information about the rate increase proposals would have to be posted to both the Department of Insurance and the provider's website at least 30 days before the final decision is made.

Similar laws in Colorado, Pennsylvania and Maine have curbed rate increases in those states, Oceguera said, and insurers will often re-file rate hike proposals after public hearings.

Jack Kim of the Nevada Association of Health Plans said AB309 could be difficult to implement because it requires insurers to prepare information so far in advance to meet disclosure deadlines. Unveiling the "trade secrets" could also reveal too much to competing insurers.

The providers are working with Oceguera on the bill, Kim said.

Supporters cheered the proposed legislation as a way to combat "abusive premium increases."

"These are rip-offs by monopolistic insurance companies," said Michael Ginsburg of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

Another proponent said the transparency initiative would give Nevada residents - especially seniors - a better grasp on big cost increases.

"Insurance policies are written with a lot of legalese," said Gail Dietrich, who is retired from the medical field and described herself as a concerned citizen. "Many people have difficulty understanding their insurances."


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