Health insurers seek rate increases as Missouri readies for regulatory authority

Health insurers are planning to raise premiums for individual plans in Missouri in 2017 — and some price hikes may be substantial, according to filings with the federal government.

In the St. Louis area, Coventry is seeking the biggest increase: a 21 percent premium hike that it says will affect about 133,500 Missourians. Coventry was acquired by health insurance giant Aetna in 2013.

Elsewhere in the state, even bigger price hikes — some as high as 34 percent — are planned by Humana in Kansas City, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City and Cox Health Systems Insurance Company in Springfield.

But starting next year a dramatic shift will occur. For the first time, the state of Missouri will have the power to review what health insurers plan to charge consumers, taking that duty away from the federal government, which some have criticized for its lack of transparency.

For the last few years, ever since President Barack Obama’s health care law revamped coverage options for individuals, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been reviewing carriers’ rates, and grading them as either reasonable or unreasonable. The federal agency, however, didn’t have the power to disapprove rates — and neither will Missouri.

But consumer advocates say the process, which will allow the state’s own experts to analyze and report on proposed rate increases, will be much more transparent. And the department will determine if the rates are excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory.

The rate filings submitted to Health and Human Services and obtained by the Post-Dispatch show key information is either redacted or not included. In many instances, basic information like where a plan will be offered is not included.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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