We’re on Our Way! Thanks to You, There’s More Attention to Insurers’ Rate Hikes (UPDATED)

The Affordable Care Act is all about making sure that folks like you and me can no longer get ripped off by insurance companies. Think about it: when you’re at the mercy of an insurer, it feels like they can hike up the cost of your premiums on a whim. It used to be, little if any regulation was there to keep such behavior in check, but now the nation’s health law changes things for the better. One important way is by telling insurers, if they want to hike up your rates, they have to show exactly why—and know that there will be a great big spotlight on them when premiums go through the roof for no better reason than because they felt they could make a buck off of you. Over the spring, we asked for your help telling the state agency whose job it is to be a watchdog on the health insurance industry to get to work. The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) had been dragging its feet on reviewing steep price increases by insurers. Although health care reform calls for reviews of any health insurance rate hike of 10 percent or higher, TDI hadn’t finalized any reviews after months and months.

Some 1,600 of you signed a petition we put out with Progress Texas calling on the department to review rates and make news of them public on its website. A first step—that public announcement of which insurers have their rates under review because they had raised them by 10 percent or more—became a reality. You can see which rate increases are under review here.

But preventing families from having to overpay for their health care will require another step. We still need TDI to finish the job. Truly holding insurers accountable for unreasonable price hikes can’t happen until the state makes it official by announcing one way or the other whether there was cause (other than companies’ profit-seeking!) for these premiums to go sky-high.

The petition to Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman and lawmakers called on the department to complete the delayed reviews, improve transparency, and provide summary information on all health insurance rate changes online. When we announced our petition, friend of this campaign and Children’s Defense Fund Texas Associate Director Laura Guerra-Cardus said, “Protecting families from unjustified rate hikes requires making sure Texans know when insurers are raising or lowering rates, as well as why they’re doing it, by how much, and whether it’s justified. It’s time that the Texas Department of Insurance publicly posts the information consumers have a right to know.”

We’ve made it that far! Now will you now help us get out the word that it’s time to say “Get To Work, Texas” on finalizing these reviews? As part of our #GetToWorkTX series—which is taking the next few days to suggest what our state needs to do now that the nation’s health law has been upheld by the Supreme Court—we would love for you to help us make some more noise about rate reviews. Please spread the word to your friends, lawmakers and even newspapers that we need the Texas Department of Insurance to finish the job on rate reviews, once and for all.

Thanks for all your help as we work to make Texas Well and Healthy (and more affordable and fairer and better with transparency . . .!)

UPDATE: We received a letter from the Texas Department of Insurance's Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman regarding the petition. What do you think of what she has to say?

Written by: Christine Sinatra, Texans Care for Children