One of the top complaints we get from consumers is about the rising cost of health care. These complaints are understandable—health insurance premiums have continued to grow faster than consumer incomes. And with insurers starting to set their rates for next year’s plans, there’s an even greater focus on insurance premiums.
Rising premium rates have long been a concern. Before the Affordable Care Act—sometimes referred to by both sides in the health insurance debate with varying motives as "Obamacare"—there were limited safeguards in place to prevent skyrocketing premium increases that made insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans.
To help get a better handle on costs and prevent insurers from dramatically raising prices without reason, the ACA includes provisions to strengthen states’ oversight of premium rates and gives the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to review premium rate increases that are potentially “unreasonable.” A key part of this was increasing transparency and requiring that the rates insurers propose be made public before they go into effect, giving states and consumers the opportunity to weigh in and make sure they are justified.
Unfortunately, there has been a significant lag in making this information available. HHS has only recently posted the filing for 2013 plans—the ones for which consumers are already paying. And though some states also require full disclosure of rate filings, the level of required transparency varies drastically.
Moreover, insurance companies routinely claim that a substantial amount of information in their rate filings is a trade secret or confidential. As a result, in many states, the insurer's justification for its proposed rates is unavailable.