Pennsylvania's insurance commissioner is urging state legislators to pass a bill that would prohibit "health profiling" and limit rate increases in advance of the 2014 enactment of the main provisions of the federal health-care reform law.
Testifying before the House Insurance Committee, which convened in Penn Hills on Tuesday, Joel Ario said he arrived at those recommendations following the department's investigation on the rating practices and premium increases of the top nine health insurance companies operating in Pennsylvania.
"Our investigation revealed that health profiling, including the use of individual medical questionnaires, will continue to be standard practice in the small group market in the absence of legislative action," Mr. Ario said.
"We are concerned that these practices could lead to market disruption rather than a smooth transition to a reformed market four years from now."
Mr. Ario announced an investigation into insurers' rate increases last month. Tuesday's testimony ostensibly marked the end of that probe; the subject of the hearing was the state's small-group health insurance marketplace.
He said that House Bill 746, which passed the House but is awaiting action in the Senate, would be the best vehicle for implementing reforms.
Pittsburgh-based Highmark Inc., one of the nine insurers looked at in the investigation, also testified at Tuesday's hearing. James Fawcett, senior vice president for small group and individual markets, told the committee that Highmark has been lobbying for changes to the small-group insurance market for five years. "We urged the General Assembly to impose a ban on the use of medical screening questionnaires to set insurance rates," he said.
"Pennsylvania stands alone as the only state that has not passed legislation to improve the small employer insurance market. The state continues to have a different set of rating regulations for non-profit insurers and commercial carriers."
Bill Toland: email@example.com or 412-263-2625.