What is a public hearing? Why is it being held?
The public hearing is an opportunity for policyholders to comment on Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Iowa’s proposed individual market premium rates. The hearing, held by the Iowa Insurance Division, was mandated by the Iowa legislature in 2010.
When/where is the public hearing?
The main site for this year’s public hearing will be the Urbandale Public Library in the Des Moines area, with satellite locations in various communities throughout Iowa joining through the fiber optic ICN (Iowa Communications Network). The meeting will take place on Saturday, December 10, 2011, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Why is the rate increase being communicated earlier this year?
Wellmark is required by law to notify its individual policyholders of its proposed premium increase at least 45 days prior to the date of the public hearing.
Wellmark adjusts rates for its individual policyholders each year. Wellmark sent a letter to all of its individual policyholders the third week of October that provided notification of an increase in the base rate amount, and to let policyholders know about the public rate hearing scheduled for December 10. A Notice of Premium Change will be mailed in February from Wellmark with the exact amount of each policyholder’s premium increase. The new premium amount will be effective April 1, 2012.
Will all insurance companies go through this public hearing process?
While there are 24 other companies licensed to sell individual health insurance products in the state of Iowa, Wellmark is the first company to trigger the public hearing process. The trigger, set by the State, is currently set for any increase greater than 5.8 percent.
Why are rates going up again?
Wellmark is asking to increase the base rate because it believes there will be rising costs for three factors that make up an insurance rate: medical services, administrative expenses, and profit or retained earnings. Wellmark continues to become more efficient administratively and operate on a small profit margin in the individual Under 65 market.
The primary drivers behind Wellmark’s proposed base rate increase are increased utilization and costs of medical services.
Is this increase due to health care reform?
Health care reform does include increased benefits for some policies, unless the member is on a grandfathered plan. However, the primary reason for the increase in the base rate is the projected growth in health care expenses.
Who mailed the rate hearing information?
Wellmark is required to notify its policyholder of the proposed base rate increase and to inform them of the public hearing at least 45 days prior to the scheduled public hearing date.
Wellmark mailed a letter the third week in October that shared its proposed base rate increase, and information about the upcoming Iowa Insurance Division public hearing on the proposed increase. The letter also explained the next steps after the public hearing.
Can members still make a comment to the Iowa Insurance Division even if they cannot attend the hearing?
Yes. Comments can be submitted directly to the consumer advocate by calling toll free 1-877-955-1212, or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .
How soon after the public hearing will the Insurance Commissioner decide if the base rate increase is appropriate?
The Insurance Division has 30 days to review and approve the base rate increase. Wellmark anticipates that the Insurance Commissioner will make the decision sometime in January.