A key lawmaker says her proposal to address concerns raised by Wellmark’s recent insurance premium hikes is in danger of dropping off the radar screen in the closing days of the 2010 legislative session. Representative Janet Petersen, a Democrat from Des Moines, says legislative leaders tell her the proposal’s $450,000 price tag is the stumbling block. “We need the public to get behind it to push it over the finish line,” she says.
AARP held a news conference at the statehouse Tuesday to urge legislators to pass Petersen’s proposal. It would require more public disclosure from insurance companies seeking rate increases and consumers would be given more advance notice of premium hikes. Sixty-year-old Don Corrigan of Des Moines has a Wellmark policy and he was recently notified his rates are going up 58%. “I know I’m just one of many people who saw a dramatic increase this year on very short notice,” Corrigan said. “I’m here to ask for a little bit more time, sunshine into the process of raising my rates and the rates of many others insured in Iowa.”
Anthony Carroll, associate state director for advocacy for AARP Iowa, says it’s clear something must be done after Wellmark rates for individual policy holders went up nine percent last year, on average, and the company plans a rate hike of twice that much this year. “This is a very common sense solution,” Carroll says. “It’s not calling for any more regulation. It’s just calling for a little more sunshine into the process.”
Petersen’s proposal would require public hearings on all insurance company rate hike applications. Petersen says she’s unconcerned by the estimated $450,000 price tag when consumers are getting notices of 58% rate hikes. Petersen has offered her proposal as an amendment to a bill dealing with the state insurance commissioner’s division. “If the public doesn’t voice their support of it, I think it will probably die,” Petersen says.
If the bill Petersen wants to pass comes up for debate, a Republican candidate for governor hopes to force legislators to vote on having the state sue to opt out of the national health care reform plan President Obama signed into law Tuesday.