The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is ready to oppose any health bill provisions that would permit federal preemption of state insurance rate regulation, an official says.
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland, the secretary-treasurer of the NAIC, Kansas City, Mo., says rate regulation is a prerogative of the states.
If White House health care reform proposals grant power to a federal rate authority to disallow increases approved by the states, Holland says, “I think we would work hard to make a strong case to not do that.”
Yesterday the White House released a proposal by President Barack Obama designed to help bridge the gap between plans passed in the House and Senate.
The president’s plan would create a new “Health Insurance Rate Authority” that would provide “needed oversight at the federal level and help states determine how rate review will be enforced and monitor insurance market behavior.”
Holland says the NAIC is in a “wait and see” mode at the moment and wants to know more about Obama’s plan.
Holland is pleased, she says, that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is charged with engaging state regulators. Sebelius was once the Kansas insurance commissioner, and she has served as president of the NAIC.
Renewed attention has been given to rate regulation in the wake of the recent announcement that Anthem Blue Cross, a unit of WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis (NYSE:WLP), plans to increase rates for some holders of individual health policies by as much as 39%.
Holland says a federal approach to address the rate increases should not be “one size fits all.” In Oklahoma, she says, the individual market covers just 4.5% of residents, and there are 19 companies competing for that business.
In California, more residents have individual coverage, and a smaller number of carriers compete for that business, Holland says.
Rate increases must be addressed along with the rising cost of health care, she says.
“All pieces must work together,” Holland says. “You can’t beat the drum of rate increases without beating the drum of rising health care costs.”