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Hearings for insurance rate hikes

Published (3/18/2010)
By Nick Busse
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Health insurers who increase their rates more than 8 percent might be required to hold public hearings before doing so.

A bill that would require insurance companies to hold one or more hearings before the Commerce Department approves the rate increase was laid over by a House committee.

The House Commerce and Labor Committee held a hearing on the HF3534 March 16. Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights), the bill’s sponsor, asked Committee Chairman Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) to lay the bill over after several members raised objections.

Laine argued the bill would help educate the public about why insurance companies are increasing their rates, as well as “give the consumers a voice” in the process.

“There’s a feeling that we have nothing to say about (the rate increases) and we don’t quite understand why they’re happening,” Laine said.

Noting a requirement in the bill that insurance companies pay for the cost of the hearings, Laine argued taxpayers would not be impacted. Some members disputed that claim, however.

House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said the bill would drive up insurance rates by forcing companies to pay for potentially hundreds of public hearings around the state.

“The actual idea that you have here is trying to lower health insurance costs, but you’re actually going to add to them,” he said.

Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) argued that the bill is essentially pointless because people who attend the hearings can’t do anything about the rate increases anyway.

“They can go and yell at the meetings, but if the Department of Commerce, through actuarial studies, says that this rate increase is justified, guess what: the rates are going to go up,” Davids said.

Members also noted that the department may have to hire additional employees just to oversee the hearings.

A companion, SF3095, sponsored by Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville), awaits action by the full Senate.

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