Texas Department of Insurance Stalling in Reviews of Insurance Premium Hikes

May 31, 2012                                                Contact: Christine Sinatra    (512) 473-2274

1,600 Texans petition for action on rate hikes left pending for as long as seven months

AUSTIN — The Texas agency whose job it is to be a watchdog over the health insurance industry is dragging its feet on reviewing steep price increases by insurers, said a coalition of health care and progressive advocates today. Although the nation’s health care reform law calls for reviews of health insurance rate hikes of 10 percent or higher, the Texas Department of Insurance has failed to finalize any reviews to date, according to a petition signed by nearly 1,600 Texans from Texas Well and Healthy and Progress Texas. The petition goes on to note that the department has allowed at least one review to remain pending for nearly seven months and has failed to rule on a rate hike from an insurer with rate increases that five other states already found to be unjustified.

“In these tough times, families can’t afford to overpay for their health care. This is about holding insurers accountable for unreasonable price hikes,” said Mimi Garcia, the organizing director of the Texas Well and Healthy campaign. “Today we are delivering a message to state leaders: Texans deserve to know which insurance companies are sending premiums sky-high for no reason other than their own profits.”

The petition to Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman and lawmakers was signed by 1,590 Texans and calls on the department to complete the delayed reviews, improve transparency and provide summary information on all health insurance rate changes online.

“Protecting families from unjustified rate hikes requires making sure Texans know when insurers are raising or lowering rates, as well as why they’re doing it, by how much and whether it’s justified,” said Laura Guerra-Cardus with the Children’s Defense Fund – Texas, a member of the campaign. “It’s time that the Texas Department of Insurance publicly posts the information consumers have a right to know.”

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The Texas Well and Healthy campaign is a broad, grassroots coalition working to ensure that every Texan has access to comprehensive and affordable health insurance. It is a collaboration of members of Cover Texas Now and other health care coalitions in the state. Learn more about the campaign http://texaswellandhealthy.org

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