Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The cover-up begins...

Recently, the University of Missouri sent a letter to all employees, stating that our health insurance premiums would be going up on January 1st, 2011. They gave several reasons (increased costs, no increases in a couple of years prior, etc) but also cited several of the new provisions of the government passed health care bill, that take effect this upcoming year as well. The exact quote from the email:

As a result of state-mandated changes and regulations enacted under National Health Care Reform, UM will provide  coverage for dependents not previously covered under the UM Plan, as well as provide benefits for conditions not previously covered.  As of Jan. 1, 2011, faculty and staff will be able to cover adult children up to age 26.

Of course, I quickly fired off an email to our illustrious Senator that voted for this bill (Claire McCaskill) who had defended it tooth-and-nail when I previously had emailed asking her not to endorse it. I forwarded the University of Missouri email to her showing our rate increase.

Specifically, in my case, with healthcare for myself, wife, and dependants, the rate increase results in an annual increase of $475/year. This is a 12.8% increase over this year's plan premiums that I have to pay.

Claire McCaskill's response?

Thank you for contacting me regarding health insurance premium increases.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
It is no secret that over the last decade, health insurance premiums have outpaced wages and inflation by a staggering amount; the majority of consumers have faced double-digit premium increases year after year and employer-sponsored plans have more than doubled their premiums since 2000.
Recently, there have been reports that some insurance companies are blaming premium increases being made this year on the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), even though in most cases these high premium rates were planned long before the law was passed.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that medical inflation is currently projected to be 3.2 percent in 2010, yet several insurance companies have planned increases up to ten times that amount.  In response, Secretary Sebelius of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent a letter in early September to the National Association of Health Insurers demanding members to stop using misinformation to falsely blame premium increases on the new healthcare law and noted that there will be "zero tolerance" for unjustified rate increases.  The skyrocketing cost of healthcare for families was the impetus for healthcare reform, and the most recent premium rate increases only reiterates that reform truly came at a critical time.
Some states already have the authority and the capacity to review insurers' proposed premium rates, and reject excessive increases.  However many states -- including Missouri -- do not have a rate review authority.  In fact, insurance rates are not currently required to be filed with the Missouri Department of Insurance.  That is why the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes new resources and provisions to strengthen insurance rate review laws and give state insurance commissioners, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, the power to reject unjustified rate hikes.  Through the new law, nearly $46 million in Health Insurance Premium Review Grants have been given to states to help improve the oversight of health insurance premium increases.  Missouri has received $1 million in the first round of grant awards, which will create the authority to establish a robust rate review process.  In the meantime, if you would like to report a problem with your insurance policy, I encourage you to visit the Missouri Department of Insurance consumer complaints website, http://insurance.mo.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm.
In addition to the recent grant award, additional provisions will be implemented over the next couple of years to prevent unreasonable insurance rate increases.  In 2011, insurance companies will be required to publicly justify on their website any unreasonable premium increases.  Another provision requires all insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premium dollars on actual medical costs in the case of individually-purchased policies and 85% of premium dollors on actual medical costs in the case of group (employer-sponsored) policies.  This will ensure that any rate hikes are going toward patient care instead of administrative expenses or salary increases for executives.  If a company is not spending premiums dollars on healthcare appropriately it will have to refund money to beneficiaries.  By 2014, HHS will also be able to deny participation in the insurance market exchanges if private insurance companies unreasonably raise rates above actual healthcare inflation.
Although it will be 2014 before most of these important provisions will take effect, the new healthcare law has several consumer protections that will affect Missourians immediately.  For plan years starting after September 23, 2010 insurance companies cannot discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions. Further, this year children under 26 years old who cannot get insurance through an employer must be allowed to stay on their parents' health care plan.  In addition, insurance companies are barred from rescinding coverage once a consumer becomes sick, and lifetime limits on health care coverage are prohibited.

Nothing like screwing things up, then using your authority to force people to quit blaming you...

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