- Associated Press - Friday, September 4, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature are pushing a bill designed to prevent large increases in health insurance rates, but it’s doubtful Republicans who hold a majority and control the legislative agenda will get behind it.

Democrats and supporters of President Barack Obama’s federal health care law who unveiled the proposal on Thursday have been frequent critics of Gov. Scott Walker’s approach toward the Affordable Care Act. Walker rejected federal money to pay for a Medicaid expansion and has called for immediate repeal of the law on the Republican presidential campaign trail.

The bill would require insurance companies give consumers 60 days’ notice for rate increases and require the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to hold public hearings on rate increases of more than 10 percent.

Commissioner spokesman J.P. Wieske told the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/1IOqlnc ) that Wisconsin has an effective rate-review process.

“The rate filings are reviewed by an outside actuary to ensure that the rates are actuarially sound,” Wieske told the State Journal. “It is important to ensure both that the rates are not excessive nor should the rates be insufficient.”

Six health insurance companies operating in Wisconsin are seeking rate increases between 10 percent and 33 percent.

Under the Affordable Care Act, states must scrutinize increases of 10 percent or more to make sure rates are based on reasonable cost assumptions. While some states have rejected high rate increases, Wisconsin hasn’t done so since 2011, when Walker took office and the federal law provided money to review rates, said Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s average premium for a benchmark plan on the federal exchange this year is $373 a month, fourth highest in the country and a 9 percent increase from last year; the national average didn’t change, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

Minnesota’s average premium is $183 a month, with an even lower average deductible.

“It is more expensive to be healthy in Wisconsin and get insurance than most other states, strictly because politicians care less about patients than they do about hurting the feelings of large insurance companies,” said Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee.

He and Rep. Deb Kolste, D-Janesville, are co-sponsoring the bill.


Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj

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