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Florida GOP defends bill deregulating healthcare insurance rates

Goldsmith-Therese
Maryland Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith 

@patriciaborns  Under heavy criticism for a bill that allows healthcare insurers to set rates without the insurance regulator's review, Republican lawmakers are fighting back against criticism that their hands-off approach to the federal health care law is leaving consumers vulnerable, the TImes/Herald Tallahassee bureau reports.

The bill, which was passed quietly in the spring, gives health insurers two years to set prices for the new insurance premiums that will be offered on the healthcare exchange, without regulation. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Georgia appears to be the only other state in the country with a similar law. 

The GOP lawmakers reject accusations that the bill preventing the state from regulating health insurance rates for two years was based on faulty or misleading information.

"We had thorough hearings on it. The rationale for the bill was explained thoroughly during the committee process," said Rep. John Wood, R-Winter Haven, who sponsored the bill in the House.

PolitiFact pointed out that Florida had forfeited its ability to regulate rates for plans listed on the health exchange even though the federal government doesn't have the power to deny rate increases.

One example of what this potentially means to consumers is posted on the Maryland insurance commissioner's website, where most of the plans that will be offered on the state's healthcare exchange were adjusted after the commissioner's review. In one case, simply by catching a provider's calculation errors, the commissioner prevailed on the company to decrease the average premium rate by 10 percent. 

Another feature of the Florida bill is a requirement that insurers reveal to consumers the portion of their rate increases that result from compliance with the Affordable Care Act; a measure that Florida insurance regulator Kevin McCarty acknowledged couldn't be based on real data, since the ACA is too new for companies to have sufficient experience with it.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said last week that she was "baffled" by the state's actions. She said she didn't know of any other state that relaxed its oversight and that most were beefing up insurance regulations. Read more

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