House Republicans yesterday sought to put new pressure on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the medical loss ratio issue (MLR).
They did so by implying that HHS put inappropriate pressure on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in 2010 to include agent commissions in the MLR calculations.
Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, reacted to the new effort by saying that, “A year after an exhaustive public process that produced a high-quality, unanimous recommendation on the medical loss ratio, the Republicans in Congress are abusing their power by launching a fishing expedition that questions the insurance commissioners’ integrity.”
Rome added, “Only hyper-partisan Republicans would try to criminalize contact between insurance commissioners and HHS. Why is cooperation prohibited? Why does venom and attack have to be the standard operating procedure? House Republicans need to grow up.”
The new pressure was contained in a letter written to the NAIC officials who participated in writing the original MLR regulations released in October 2010 and approved by HHS several weeks later.
The letter was written by key Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The letter also implied that HHS and NAIC officials might be forced to make written sworn testimony on the issue to the committees at public hearings they might convene.
It follows the decision by HHS on Dec. 2 to include agents in the MLR calculations in a final regulation despite a resolution adopted by the NAIC the prior week asking that agents be removed from the calculation.
The letter was signed by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.; Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., and Michael Burgess, R-Texas, chairman and vice chairman of E&C’s Health Subcommittee; and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
It was written to Susan Voss, Iowa insurance commissioner and president of the NAIC; Jane Cline, former West Virginia commissioner and NAIC president at the time; and Sandy Praeger, Kansas commissioner and head of the NAIC Task Force that adopted the regulations forwarded to the HHS for implementation.
The letter said the committee had held numerous hearings on the issue where “several witnesses gave testimony regarding the law’s harmful impacts on jobs in the agent and broker community.