The New York Department of Financial Services has rejected health insurers’ argument that individual and small group health rate filings should not be made public.
The New York department has told the insurers’ lawyers that it intends to terminate a New York law exception that has been keeping the rate filings confidential.
Insurers have argued that the rate filings are trade secrets and ought to be protected.
Department officials say in a letter to the insurers’ lawyers that the insurers’ “arguments for continuing to shroud their rate filings in secrecy are unpersuasive.”
Officials told the health insurers last week that public policy considerations and state and federal law support the department’s finding that the department can disclose the insurers’ rate filings to the public. Increasing rate filing transparency should help slow increases in the cost of health coverage, officials said.
In the past, New York state has provided health rate filings an exemption from the usual state Freedom of Information Law public records disclosure requirements. The New York department notified insurers of its intent to change that rate filing policy in an e-mail sent Sept. 23.
“The public policy benefits to transparency are clear and overwhelming,” department officials said in the letter. “The law reinstituting prior approval of health insurance premiums was passed in response to the continuing rapid rise of those premiums and in the hope that transparency and review would help slow that rise.”
The disclosure of rate materials will reveal information about insurers’ efforts to determine which groups have the lowest level of claims risk, officials said. “But one of the major goals of both New York and federal policy is to require insurers to compete not based on their ability to manipulate markets to manage risk, but rather based on quality and efficiency,” officials said.