Last Friday, health insurers in Massachusetts filed their proposed rates for January 2012. The Division of Insurance now begins a period of detailed analysis of the actuarial data, probing the filings to ensure that rates are reasonable and supported by the evidence.
But the Division’s work is also a fundamental exercise in public policymaking, beyond the accounting exercise. The DOI represents us, the public, in a process that otherwise would be take-it-or-leave-it.
Yesterday, Barbara Anthony, the Patrick administration’s undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, who oversees the Division of Insurance, made this very clear in a State House News Service interview picked up by the Herald:
As her office reviews hundreds of premium proposals filed by health insurance companies, Barbara Anthony, the Patrick administration’s top consumer affairs official, is urging a fundamental shift in the health care industry’s mindset, contending that a general acceptance of periodic increases in insurance premiums is a self-fulfilling prophesy.
“We need to wrap ourselves around the notion that we can control health care costs,” said Anthony, undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, in a phone interview. “If we expect them to continue rising, then you know what? They’re going to rise. But if we expect that we’re going to start with a base of zero, then we’re going to do a lot better.”
“We have two sets of responsibilities here,” she said. “We have the legal responsibility to review the rates … but we also have a responsibility, a moral responsibility I call it, to the cities and businesses of the Commonwealth to encourage that carriers and providers work as hard as they possibly can together to reduce health care costs. We’re not stopping at the letter of the law because the stakes are much too high.”
We applaud Undersecretary Anthony for articulating her agency’s statutory role to advance the public interest. HCFA and GBIO started our premium freeze campaign because of the moral stake in the unchecked cost increases in medical care and health insurance. We urge the Division of Insurance to aggressively represent the consumers, workers and employers of Massachusetts in their upcoming negotiations over 2012 rates.