Friday, April 6, 2012

We Did It: Connecticut Consumers to Receive Notices of Rate Incareses

Insurance Department
Thomas B. Leonardi
Donna Tommelleo

April 05th, 2012

Insurance Commissioner: Consumers To Receive
Timely Notice of Health Carriers’ Rate Filing
      Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas B. Leonardi today announced that health insurance companies and HMOs will begin notifying their individual and small group policyholders each time they submit a rate request to the Insurance Department for review along with guidance on where to access the filing and submit comments.
      "Consumers have a right to know when their health carrier has filed for a new rate and the Department has worked closely with carriers to develop a letter on rate notification. Together with the Department’s postings, this letter is another important outreach resource that we can use to help educate policyholders about insurance rate procedures in Connecticut," Commissioner Leonardi said. "I appreciate the efforts and cooperation of the carriers to keep their customers well-informed every step of the rate process."
      The Commissioner said companies have agreed to mail out the notification letters at the same time they submit a rate filing to the Department.  The letters will go out consumers who have individual policies and, in the case of small group, will be mailed to the employer. The letter will direct consumers to the Health Insurance Rate Filing link on the Department’s Web site. The site includes the company’s rate request, correspondence with the Department, a section for public comment and a brief easy-to-understand summary of the entire filing. The letter also directs the policyholder to the Department’s e-Alert section.
      The Insurance Department uses several ways to notify the public each time a carrier files for rate change. Subscribers to e-Alerts get an e-mail with a link to the rate filing section. The Department also posts news of the filing on the cover of its Web site, on Facebook and on Twitter.
      The agreement drew praise from advocates, the industry and key state lawmakers:
      "I appreciate the Commissioner's efforts to secure this agreement with insurers, in lieu of legislation," said State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri. "OHA has advocated for years for meaningful, advanced notice to consumers of proposed rate increases to allow consumers the option to shop for a new plan, prepare for a rate increase and/or provide comment to the Insurance Department on the insurer’s justification for the rate increase."
      "This provision for direct notification of rate increase requests is an important part of the transparency and accountability we’ve been working toward in the state’s rate approval process – it’s gratifying to know consumers will now have more information available to them so they can participate more knowledgably in the proceedings," Senator Joseph J. Crisco, Jr. (D-Woodbridge), Senate chair of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said.
      "As a regulated industry in the state of Connecticut it only follows the affected residents of the state ought to play a role in that regulation if they so desire. I commend Commissioner Leonardi for his responsiveness on this notification issue and remain grateful to my legislative colleagues and all those who helped revise our insurance rate review procedures," Senator Crisco added.
      "For the sake of consumers, I am very happy with this announcement," said Rep. Robert Megna (D-New Haven), House chair of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee."Informing consumers ahead of time of any potential rate increase will allow them flexibility in their financial planning."
      "The process initiated by Commissioner Leonardi worked because everyone - the Department, legislators, interest groups and payers - have had the same goal in mind: putting the best possible information in the hands of consumers and encouraging them to participate in the Department's robust rate review process," said Keith Stover, spokesman for the Connecticut Association of Health Plans.  "We applaud the Commissioner's work and the Department's willingness to develop a sound, practical approach to a vital consumer issue."

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