Oklahoma Senator Seeking Transparency in Health Insurance Rate Increases

January 28, 2011

Oklahoma State Sen. Earl Garrison wants insurance companies to be accountable to citizens and justify any rate increases.

He has introduced Senate Bill 354, which would ensure that premium rate information relating to the individual accident and health insurance market be readily available to the public, according to an announcement released by the Oklahoma Senate.

“In all other industries, companies publicly provide the prices for each of their services and I don’t believe the insurance industry should be any different. Consumers need to be able to easily compare rates in order to make an informed decision on which insurance is most affordable and fits their needs,” said Garrison, D-Muskogee. “Making this information public should also help keep insurance rates more competitive and dissuade companies from making unnecessary rate hikes – saving consumers money.”

SB 354 would require the state Department of Insurance to post premium rate filings and a consumer-friendly summary of such filings on its Web site. The summary would explain changes in rate, actuarial value, anticipated impact on premiums and any other information the Department deemed necessary. Any justification for the proposed rate increase provided by the insurer would also be disclosed on the department’s Web site.

“There have been numerous examples across the nation of companies like Blue Shield in California trying to raise rates as much as 59 percent for some policy holders even though the company reports multi-billion dollars profits year after year,” said Garrison. “Consumers don’t have the time to call each company to compare rates. Having all the information on one website will make it easier for consumers to see what’s available and also hold insurance providers accountable for their decisions.”

Garrison pointed out that Congress is also considering a proposed federal rule that would require health insurers for individual and small group policies to justify certain rate hikes. Under the rule, rate increases of ten percent or more would have to be publicly disclosed and reviewed to determine whether the hikes are reasonable.

Source: Oklahoma Senate

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