Lawsuit Filed Over HHS’ Failure To Publicize Insurance Rate Increases
On Tuesday, a former HHS official filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that HHS has not publicized health insurance rate increase requests as required under the Affordable Care Act, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports (Millman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/1).
Under the rate-review provision of the ACA, insurers are required to submit to federal authorities proposed premium rate increases of 10% or more and justify those hikes. The law permits federal officials to question certain premium rate hike proposals, but they cannot stop insurers from implementing them (California Healthline, 9/22). Most states conduct their own reviews of insurers' proposed rate increases, but HHS is tasked with reviewing proposed rate increases for states that do not have effective rate review programs. In April, several national and state consumer groups urged HHS to publicize insurers' proposed rates.
Details of Lawsuit
The lawsuit was filed by Jay Angoff on behalf of a Missouri consumer advocacy group. Angoff previously oversaw ACA implementation at HHS. The suit contends that the ACA requires HHS to publicize rate information to allow consumers the opportunity to challenge the rate increases. However, HHS has failed to publish any rate filings and did not respond quickly to a Freedom of Information Act request the group submitted for the filings, the suit alleges.
It also alleges that HHS has not made rate filings public in past years, as its own regulations require ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/1).
The filing requests that HHS be ordered to produce records in response to the group's FOIA request (Consumers Council of Missouri lawsuit, 9/30).
Need for Rate Increase Information
Angoff said that he does not know why HHS has not made the rate increase filings public but that he believes that doing so could "only have a pro-competitive effect in the market," adding, "The only way those rates are likely to come down is if the rate filing justifications are made public." He said the disclosure would help consumers both in states that have not regulated insurance rates and states that do not have strong rate review programs.
HHS spokesperson Ben Wakana said that the department is "readying the rate change information" and "is committed to providing consumers accurate information so they can make
informed decisions." He added that HHS would publicize final insurance rates for all 50 states prior to the start of the upcoming open enrollment period ("Wonkblog," Washington Post, 10/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.