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Want Lower Health Insurance Rates? Urge Senators to Preserve the Governor’s Vetoes.

Want Lower Health Insurance Rates? Urge Senators to Preserve the Governor’s Vetoes.

July 28, 2011

Governor Patrick vetoed three sections in the Massachusetts FY 2012 budget to ensure the state has better control over escalating health care costs. Yesterday the House overrode the vetoes, and they will be coming up in the Senate soon, possibly today. Health Care For All urges the Senate to preserve the Governor’s vetoes because they are in the best interest of consumers. Here’s why:

  • One section Gov. Patrick vetoed would restrict DOI's ability to perform thorough reviews of proposed insurer rate increases in the individual/small group market. Barbara Anthony, the state's undersecretary for consumer affairs, told the State House News that “What’s happening here is the industry is trying to handcuff the regulatory agency which has been probably the most successful insurance agency in the country. What they’re trying to do here is handicap them, tie their hands behind their back in an effort to make sure they’re not going to be effective in their job.” Sustaining the Governor's veto will ensure the state has more control over rising premiums, and consumers will have DOI watching their back when insurers propose unjustified premium hikes.
  • Two other sections that Governor Patrick vetoed would require the Division of Insurance to notify a health plan 60 days before the effective date of the proposed rates if it plans to disapprove unreasonably high rates. If DOI did not meet the time standard, the high rates would be deemed approved. As it stands now, DOI has 45 days to notify health plans before the rates kick in. As Governor Patrick noted in his veto message, this section "inhibits the commissioner from conducting a thorough review of the carrier's rate submission, and automatically allowing rates that have not been thoroughly reviewed could increase premium costs and create confusion in the marketplace."

While the House has rejected the Governor's efforts here to strengthen regulatory oversight of insurers, it’s up to the Senate to help consumers by preserving the Governor’s vetoes. Regulatory review is a critical component of assuring rates that are fair and reasonable. As Governor Patrick astutely states, “If we are serious about controlling the rise in health insurance premiums, we shouldn’t limit the one tool we have to give some relief to small businesses and working families.”
-Amelia Russo