Missouri Consumer Group Sues for Release of Health Insurance Rates

By Shapiro, Jordan | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), October 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

Missouri Consumer Group Sues for Release of Health Insurance Rates


Shapiro, Jordan, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


A Missouri consumer advocacy group is suing the federal government in an attempt to force the public disclosure of health insurance rate information ahead of the upcoming enrollment period.

The Consumers Council of Missouri said it filed the lawsuit late Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis after its Freedom of Information Act request for the rate filings was denied by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The council said it is looking for information about pricing and insurers' reasons for raising or lowering rates.

"It seems to be the only way we are going to have a chance to get this information," said Joan Bray, the council's executive director and a former Democratic Missouri state senator.

The consumer group says the Affordable Care Act requires federal officials to make rate information public so consumers have the chance to challenge the price of health insurance before online shopping begins on Nov. 15.

For many states, that role can be performed by state insurance regulators who have the ability to review an insurer's proposed prices for health plans.

But Missouri's insurance department has no such authority, leaving the federal government as the only entity other than the insurers themselves with access to rate information before the plans are sold.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the division of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) that runs the online marketplace, has yet to release any information about proposed rates or the identity of the insurers who have applied to sell on the Missouri marketplace.

A spokesman, asked about the Missouri lawsuit, told the Post- Dispatch that it plans to release the information but did not say how soon. "We are readying the rate change information. The department is committed to providing consumers accurate information so they can make informed decisions, and therefore, before the beginning of open enrollment, the agency will publish final insurance rates for all 50 states," HHS spokesman Ben Wakana said in a statement late Wednesday.

Jay Angoff, the attorney filing the lawsuit on behalf of the consumer group and a former Missouri insurance commissioner, said it could be some time before a judge considers the case. With open enrollment starting in about six weeks, there may not be enough time for a court ruling before people begin signing up for plans, he acknowledged. …

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