UnitedHealth Group and five other health insurers in New York have dropped their legal objections and agreed to make their insurance rate increase filings public, the New York Department of Financial Services announced.
UnitedHealth, the largest health insurer in the state, withdrew its legal objections Oct. 25, followed two days later by Aetna Health, EmblemHealth, Empire HealthChoice, Excellus Health Plan and HealthNow.
Insurers are now required to seek prior approval from the Department of Financial Services for certain health insurance rate hikes. The insurers make their requests with detailed supporting data, which in previous years was kept confidental.
In September, Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky determined the filings should be disclosed so the public can make informed comments during the ratemaking process. Ten health insurers, along with the New York Health Plan Association, filed formal objections.
New York state officials then issued a ruling rejecting the insurers' arguments for secrecy. The insurers now can seek an administrative appeal and, if their appeal is rejected, challenge the decision in court.
"It's absolutely essential for the public to know the basis for proposed rate increases – these filings should not be treated like classified material that only a select few may know," Lawsky said in a press release following UnitedHealth's decision. "Transparency here will allow the public to rigorously comment on proposed rates and will also help promote competition.
For contracts that start on or after Jan. 1, 2012, health insurers so far have requested weighted average increases of 12.7 percent, and the department granted increases of 8.2 percent, below the expected increase in medical costs. The lower-level increase will save consumers more than $400 million in 2012, according to the department.
Four other insurers have yet to withdraw their objections to making the rate increase requests public--Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Independent Health, and MVP Health Care.