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Mon March 14, 2011
Bill Would Shed Light on Health Insurance Rate Hike Requests
By Peter St. Cyr
Santa Fe, NM – A proposal making its way through the State Capitol this week could shed more light on the way regulators in Santa Fe approve health insurance rates. Supporters want companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield to publicly reveal financial information like profit reports and to schedule public hearings before premiums are increased.
Just last summer, the state insurance department tentatively approved a 25 percent increase for Blue Cross Blue Shield. That shocked customers and the company eventually settled on a 21 percent hike in August. A recent report by the state's insurance division examiners found the original higher rate request was justified.
But Public Regulation Commissioner Jason Marks says after the rate increase thousands were forced to drop their policies. He supports this year's legislation and says most personal budgets just can't absorb extra policy costs.
"We're not talking about $10 a month. We're talking about hundreds of dollars a month. We're talking about life and death decision for families," Marks says. "We're not going to solve all of the health care problems in the United States with this legislation, but we'll have the tools to make things better, and at least give consumers a fighting chance."
With the new legislation, Marks says he hopes the review process will become more transparent. "So far this year," Marks says, " we haven't seen any big whoppers, in terms of health care rate increases. But I have every reason to believe that they'll be back sooner than later, and we need the tools to be prepared."
On Saturday, the Senate approved a substitute bill on a 35 to 2 vote. Now it needs to pass the House before the session ends on Saturday.