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Insurers, state up the ante in health rates dispute

By Robert Weisman, Globe Staff – The stand-off between Massachusetts regulators and health insurance companies intensified today as most insurers stopped offering new coverage to small businesses and individuals while state officials demanded that the insurers post updated rates online and resume selling such policies by the end of the week. People seeking to buy health insurance for the first time, or existing customers looking to change policies, found themselves out of luck, at least temporarily, in the aftermath of last week’s decision by the state Division of Insurance to reject 235 of 274 premium increases proposed by insurers for what is known as the small group market. The segment covers about 800,000 residents.
Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy said he has asked insurers to quote rates for new coverage through the state Health Connector’s insurance website by Friday and reminded them that they are required by law to do so. The new quotes would use base rates set last year combined with additional rating factors such as the size and age of the workforce, the location, and type of industry, Murphy said. “It’s imperative that consumers have information available to them as they consider their purchasing options,” he said. “If we don’t see the rates posted by the end of the week, we have a variety of enforcement tools at our disposal, including the ability to fine carriers.”
Insurers, however, said they could not calculate new rates until a state Superior Court judge rules on their request for an injunction that would prevent the state from continuing to block increases for the coverage period that started April 1. The case is expected to go before a judge in Boston as early as Thursday.”We’re in limbo until the issue gets resolved,” said Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, a trade group representing most of the state’s insurance companies. “There are no approved rates in the market right now. You’re seeing the first sign of the kind of market chaos we were worried about.”The suspension of rate quotes was the latest in a sequence of events that began last Friday, the day after the proposed rates were denied.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 23rd, 2010 at 12:13 am and is filed under Health Insurance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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