Sunday, June 17, 2018
Health

State requires health insurers to detail costs added by Affordable Care Act

TALLAHASSEE —The next front in the national battle over health care reform: your mailbox.

A little noticed law passed by state legislators this year deregulates any new health insurance policies for the next two years and requires insurers to send customers a disclosure form spelling out how much of the cost of the policy is attributable to the Affordable Care Act.

Proponents say it is a necessary component of enacting the federal health care reform and will shift regulation of new health care policies to the federal government, including policies emerging from the federal health care exchange.

But opponents say the federal government doesn't have the resources nor the ability to regulate insurance rates in Florida and, without those protections, rates could soar. If rates rise, they said, the disclosure form will mislead the public into concluding that the increased costs are all associated with the health care reform while any reductions in costs won't be recorded.

"The sole purpose for the form is to present unfair 'apples and oranges' comparisons to the public that will ensure sticker shock," said Greg Mellowe, policy director of the health insurance advocacy group, Florida CHAIN.

In a letter urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the proposal, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the state's former insurance commissioner, called the attempt at deregulating the health insurers "unbelieveable and unconscionable" and could result in rate increases of between 10 percent and 70 percent.

But the governor and other advocates of the new law disagree.

"Rates for new plans will be reviewed by the same federal government that will be enforcing and updating the new rules and regulations throughout this very fluid and uncertain transition period,'' the governor wrote when he signed SB 1862 into law on May 31.

He noted that the law does not apply to health plans in effect before the Affordable Care Act took effect in March 2010 and state regulators will continue to review the rates of those health plans.

"No one should be afraid of the truth,'' said Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, sponsor of the bill. "You can't make intelligent decisions unless you have accurate facts."

The measure, passed by lawmakers in the final days of the legislative session, repeals state rate review of health insurance plans in effect after March 2010, and requires insurers to spell out the costs of the Affordable Care Act for the next two years, beginning January 2014.

Senate Democrats tried to amend the bill to require that the cost comparison required in the disclosure form be reviewed by accountants to verify that the changes in premiums are attributable to the Affordable Care Act.

"If the state is going to be pulling back on regulating pricing due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we need to make sure that these increases aren't willy nilly but verifiable,'' said Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, who sponsored the amendment.

But the suggestion was rejected when Simmons said it "would mess up the ability of us to get this approved by the House."

House Democrats also noted that the law not only removes state oversight but blocks the state from enforcing the protections of the federal reforms. The Senate voted for the bill 25-6 and the House approved it 78-36.

The consumer notices must follow a form approved by the governor and Cabinet at their Aug. 6 meeting. But there is no provision in the law for checking the accuracy of the facts, except Simmons said, existing laws requiring insurers to be accurate.

A draft of the proposed form prepared by the Office of Insurance Regulation includes a detailed grid showing what the health insurance policy would cost before the federal health care reform takes effect, and what it costs after the changes kick it. It also requires insurers to spell out how much of the cost of the policy can be attributed to key features of the law — covering people with pre-existing conditions, offering new benefits, paying taxes and fees, charging the same premium for men as women.

"The notices obscure from consumers the many advantages of the Affordable Care Act, including the fact that it is ensuring that affordable health coverage is accessible to all Americans,'' said Mark Hollis, spokesman for House Democrats.

CHAIN's Mellowe commended the proposed disclosure notice drafted by the Office of Insurance Regulation, saying it will "reduce the likelihood that consumers will be misled into believing that this notice actually explains the impact of the Affordable Care Act on their premiums." But, he said, "that doesn't change the misleading nature of the numbers that will be reported on the form."

A hearing on the draft form was supposed to be held on it this week in Tallahassee, but no one showed up, so it was cancelled, Office of Insurance Regulation officials said.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at [email protected] and Twitter @MaryEllenKlas

Comments
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18
Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

Mayo Clinic Q&A: melanomas of the eye; how long should you take a beta blocker?

YES, MELANOMAS CAN BEGIN IN THE EYEIs it true that melanoma can develop in the eyes? If so, how common is it? How is it treated?Melanomas can begin in the eye, a condition called intraocular melanoma. Treatment for intraocular melanomas used to prima...
Published: 06/08/18
For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

For writer, using a heart rate monitor takes HIIT from frightening to fun

High-intensity interval training is one of the biggest trends in fitness, but it has always seemed a bit scary to me. To a mere mortal with achy knees and an aging body, even the acronym — HIIT — sounded intimidating.But recently, I overcame my fears...
Published: 06/08/18
Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

Enjoy broccolini the Italian way: ‘dragged’

By KATIE WORKMANOne of the amazing things about Italian food is that the best dishes are often so completely, refreshingly simple. Like, four-ingredient simple. (We don’t count olive oil and salt. Or water. Or air.) I love broccoli. I can roast brocc...
Published: 06/08/18
What to get Dad? Try a Father’s Day gift that will do him good

What to get Dad? Try a Father’s Day gift that will do him good

Dads are notoriously tough to shop for. They’re not all that great at dropping hints, the way moms do, and if you ask what your dad might want or need for Father’s Day, he’ll likely say, "Nothing" or "Don’t spend your money" or "I just want to be wit...
Published: 06/08/18
Tampa council hears mixed messages on free-roaming roosters in Ybor City

Tampa council hears mixed messages on free-roaming roosters in Ybor City

TAMPA — Ybor City roosters and chickens can peck away in peace. For now.The Tampa City Council asked city attorneys and code enforcement officials Thursday to continue studying how to reduce the growing flock in the city’s historic heart, but no acti...
Published: 06/07/18