Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arlier Rate Disclosure Weig; SHOPPING FOR HEALTH CARE; Effort Could Serve as a Catalyst for a Larger Debate about Health Plan Price Transparency.; LEGISLATION in Missouri; Health Insurers Would Have to "Make Available" Rates for Individuals at Least 30 D

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arlier Rate Disclosure Weig; SHOPPING FOR HEALTH CARE; Effort Could Serve as a Catalyst for a Larger Debate about Health Plan Price Transparency.; LEGISLATION in Missouri; Health Insurers Would Have to "Make Available" Rates for Individuals at Least 30 D

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * Missouri lawmakers want consumers to learn about health insurance prices at least a month before enrollment begins. But that effort could serve as a catalyst for a larger debate about health plan price transparency in the state.

The House Health Insurance Committee considered the measure that would mandate earlier price disclosure at a hearing this week. The bill would require health insurers to "make available" plan rates for individual policies at least 30 days before open enrollment starts.

Individual policies can be bought by consumers who don't get coverage on the job. They can be purchased directly through an insurance company or on HealthCare.gov, the online federal marketplace created by President Barack Obama's health law.

Because the federal government operates HealthCare.gov, insurance plans are reviewed and published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Each insurance company can also reveal their prices and plan structures at any time.

But the companies often closely guard their rates until they can be sold, as to not allow competitors to undercut them on prices. And the government has been slow to publish the pricing information. It did not make the rates public until only a few days before enrollment began in mid-November.

The tight time frame, the sponsor of Missouri's legislation says, made it difficult for consumers to select a plan especially because they only had 30 days after the start of enrollment to sign up for coverage that began Jan. 1.

"It did not allow enough time to educate consumers on such an important financial decision," said Rep. Justin Hill, a Lake Saint Louis Republican and a health insurance broker.

Hill's measure was positively received by both Republicans and Democrats on the committee. But there was concern among Democrats and other insurance advocates about whether more needs to be done in regards to price transparency.

Missouri is one of the only states that doesn't give its insurance regulators the ability to review rates and plan designs before they are sold to consumers. It's an issue that's long been a point of contention in the state and it re-emerged during discussion of the rate disclosure bill. …

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