OLYMPIA, Wash. - On this one-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as federal health care reform, the Washington State Insurance Commission is fighting a small but significant battle to make one of its own reforms. It's backing a bill in the Washington Legislature that would make public some insurance company information that is now submitted for state agency eyes only - information about how the companies set and raise their health insurance rates. State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler thinks it's a matter of fairness and transparency.
"Somebody who's getting a 20 percent rate increase - they get absolutely no information as to why it was deemed justified; they are not afforded an opportunity to know early in the process so that they can offer comment. Washington state law prohibits us from being able to release that information."
The insurance companies that do business in Washington are split on House Bill 1220 - some support it, while others oppose the idea of making rate information public. Kreidler wants the law changed to mirror what Oregon's Insurance Division does.
"They wind up making that information available, taking comments from the public before they render a decision. That kind of transparency, in this day and age, only makes sense. We're trying to do as good a job as they do in Oregon."
The State Insurance Commission received federal money last year to improve oversight of health insurance rates and increase transparency, including developing a new website for consumers. Kreidler says they're working on it - and the fate of HB 1220 will determine how much information it will contain. The bill has passed the House and it emerged from a Senate committee on Monday.