By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: A bill imposing more transparency on rate increases sought by health insurance companies is now on its way to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review.
Assembly Bill 309, sought by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, requires health insurance companies to publicize their rate increase requests online and allows the public to participate in rate hearings before the Nevada Division of Insurance.
One supporter of the measure said the bill was weakened with the changes made by the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee but called it a good first step. The Assembly accepted the Senate amendment on Monday.
The bill passed the Assembly on a 33-9 vote, but saw only a 12-9 vote in the Senate. Democrats in the Senate were joined by Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, in supporting the bill.
“This legislation would improve health insurance transparency by requiring health insurance companies to publicize rate increases online and hold health insurance companies responsible by requiring them to publicize the information justifying rate increases,” Oceguera said. “AB309 would make Nevada the fourth state to allow its citizens to request public hearings on rate increases.”
The bill would also benefit Nevada’s health insurance consumers by allowing the state to apply for almost $4 million in additional federal funding for increased rate review and online transparency, he said.
It would require insurance companies to post rate hearing information on their websites. The Division of Insurance will be required to link to the information as well.
“I am pleased this legislation passed the Senate, and I urge the governor to sign this common sense legislation,” Oceguera said.
Larry Matheis, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Association, called the amended bill a positive step.
“But we’ll have to do much better to make the health insurance industry’s actions and decisions transparent,” he said. “If we don’t, reforms can’t work. Over the next few years this may prove to be one of the most challenging aspects of health care reform. AB309 is a small step in the right direction.”
Matheis said more needs to be done to ensure the public knows what their health insurance policy actually covers and how premiums are used by the insurance companies.
The bill was amended to allow insurance companies to withhold some information deemed to be trade secrets.
“We took a step in this session, but it will have to be followed with much more in future sessions for the public to have any confidence that they can make meaningful decisions about health plans,” Matheis said.
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