Sabrina Corlette of Georgetown University and Janet Lundy of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif., discuss state health rate review disclosure practices in a report on variations in state review methods.

“Most of the states we interviewed have made little or no effort to make rate filings transparent or facilitate consumer access to information about rate increases,” the researchers say. “Some states, like Idaho and Alaska, explicitly label the information in a rate filing ‘proprietary’ and reveal none of the justifying data to the public. More commonly, states allow for public access to rate filings, but only after they have been approved.”

When consumers can see rate filing documents, they usually have to visit the department offices to see the documents, the researchers say.

“We found that much of the actual rate review process – during which regulators might question assumptions, state objections, and ask for reductions in rates – is conducted as an informal dialogue between [insurance] Department staff and insurance carriers to which policyholders have no access,” the researchers say.

Wisconsin does let consumers see rating filing information, and it wants to use federal grant dollars to improve the rate filing data access part of its website, the researchers say.

A few states, including Colorado, Maine and Wisconsin, let policyholders ask for public hearings on rating filings, the researchers say.

“There is evidence that the simple ability to hold a hearing is enough to give state regulators leverage to negotiate lower rates,” the researchers say.

Pennsylvania regulators have reported that insurers sometimes ask for increases of 30% to 40%, then reduce the requests significantly when told the requests might be the subject of hearings, the researchers say.

- Allison Bell