Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Health

Most Florida health insurers conceal 2015 premium prices

Consumer advocates are pushing for the release of rate filings by the state's health insurers, saying Floridians shouldn't be kept in the dark on premium prices for next year.

All but two of the dozen health insurers that want to sell plans through the Affordable Care Act marketplace failed to indicate on forms posted on a state website whether they're seeking an increase or decrease in their monthly premium prices.

Instead, they entered "0" in the box for proposed rate changes, claiming the information is protected under a trade secrets statute. They privately submitted the figures to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Though state regulators will publish the rate proposals as part of a report at the end of this month, consumer group Florida CHAIN said that's not enough.

Greg Mellowe, policy director of Florida CHAIN, said insurers' omissions leave the public depending on a state report, rather than the original documentation. It also creates a time lag; in a number of other states, consumers have already gotten a look at proposed insurance rates.

"There's no lawful basis for them to have done that," Mellowe said. "We're trying to bring some basic transparency."

State officials said they agree with CHAIN but their hands are tied. Because insurers made confidentiality claims, that triggers a potential review by a judge.

Harvey Bennett, spokesman for the Florida OIR, said the state can't comply with several public records requests for the data, including one this week by Florida CHAIN, because of that issue. Insurers have 30 days to ask a judge to determine if they deserve trade secret status.

"The office does not agree that requested rates are intended by the law to be treated as confidential trade secrets," Bennett said. "However, the office does not make this decision. It must be made by a court."

Bennett noted that insurers were primarily trying to keep their rates secret from one another before last month's filing deadline. The plans have the same basic coverage under the federal health care law, so insurers are competing over price and don't want to be undercut.

State officials will review insurers' documents only for accuracy. Florida's Republican-led Legislature in 2013 suspended the office's authority over rate regulation for two years, saying federal officials could do it because they were operating the online insurance exchange — another job the state refused.

Only two insurers made their proposals known. Humana is seeking an average 14.1 percent increase for its various HMOs and an average 2.2 percent increase for its PPO plans. Molina Healthcare is proposing an average decrease of 11.6 percent.

States are seeing a wide range of changes in insurance rates. A new report from the Health Research Institute found an average rate increase of 7.2 percent across 18 states that made the information available.

Contact Jodie Tillman at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @jtillmantimes.

Comments
Residents went three days without running water at unlicensed ALFs

Residents went three days without running water at unlicensed ALFs

ST. PETERSBURG — Three days.That’s how long residents of two unlicensed assisted living facilities went without running water before the authorities shut the facilities down last week.The Public Works Department said it turned off the water at 3418 a...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Exercise myths persist, so let’s fight them

Exercise myths persist, so let’s fight them

When it comes to fitness, can you tell the difference between fact and fiction? Misinformation abounds, and research is continually disproving it. Some myths, like "no pain, no gain," are fading away, but there are plenty more that persist. It’s impo...
Published: 04/24/18

Veteran who survived blast receives unusual penis transplant

WASHINGTON — A veteran who lost his genitals from a blast in Afghanistan has received the world’s most extensive penis transplant, and doctors said Monday he’s recovering well and expected to leave the hospital this week. Saying they wanted to addres...
Published: 04/23/18
Do not eat any romaine lettuce, the CDC warns

Do not eat any romaine lettuce, the CDC warns

Public health officials are now telling consumers to avoid all types of romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak linked to the vegetable that has spread to at least 16 states and sickened at least 60 people, including eight inmates at an Alask...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida Hospital Carrollwood spending $17.5 million to expand emergency department

Florida Hospital Carrollwood spending $17.5 million to expand emergency department

Florida Hospital Carrollwood is expanding its emergency department. The hospital, 7171 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, is spending $17.5 million to add 15 new private treatment rooms, new pediatric rooms and waiting areas, and new technology, acco...
Published: 04/18/18
Barbara Bush’s end-of-life decision stirs debate over ‘comfort care’

Barbara Bush’s end-of-life decision stirs debate over ‘comfort care’

As she nears death at age 92, former first lady Barbara Bush’s announcement that she is seeking "comfort care" is shining a light — and stirring debate — on what it means to stop trying to fight terminal illness.Bush, the wife of former President Geo...
Published: 04/17/18
Preparing for the worst, staffers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s learn through simulation

Preparing for the worst, staffers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s learn through simulation

When the patient got violent, Dr. Michelle Hidalgo didn’t have time to think. She had to react. The woman was moving strangely and seemed erratic. Hidalgo had to make a tough call — it was time to physically restrain her for everyone’s safety.Then th...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Lung cancer patients live longer with immune therapy

The odds of survival can greatly improve for people with the most common type of lung cancer if, along with the usual chemotherapy, they are also given a drug that activates the immune system, a major new study has shown.The findings should change me...
Published: 04/16/18
Thousands of pounds of prepackaged salad mixes may have been tainted with E. coli, officials say

Thousands of pounds of prepackaged salad mixes may have been tainted with E. coli, officials say

A Pennsylvania food manufacturer is recalling 8, 757 pounds of ready-to-eat salad products following an E. coli outbreak that has spread to several states and sickened dozens of people.Fresh food Manufacturing Co., based in Freedom, Pennsylvania, is ...
Published: 04/15/18