Medical providers fear price controls via insurance rate regulation
Kaiser Health News (KHN) provides a roundup of federal and state options to regulate health insurance premiums. Reading between the lines, however, the story is really about a larger issue: regulatory action to hold down the cost of medical care that underlies the actuarial basis of premiums. Either indirectly by giving insurance regulators more authority to approve or reject filed premium rates or more directly as KHN reports:
Tired of complaints that underlying costs are the problem, but hearing no consensus from the health-care industry on how to solve it, Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) introduced a broad proposal to overhaul the way health care is paid for. Part of the proposal would allow regulators to reject premium increases if insurers pay hospitals, doctors and others more than a limit set by the state.
Either way, to providers it smells like price controls. In California, that prospect has doctors so alarmed that they’ve allied with their traditional payer adversaries to oppose pending legislation (Assembly Bill 52) that would give the Golden State insurance and managed care plan regulators prior approval authority over health insurance rate filings and allow them to bar the use of rates deemed excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory.
Massachusetts Gov. Patrick’s concept bears watching and could have national implications insofar as that state’s health care reform served as a template for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).