Today, the LA Times reports:
“Healthcare overhaul legislation moving through the Senate Finance Committee would put crucial rule-making authority in the hands of a private association of state insurance commissioners that consumer advocates fear is too closely tied to the industry.
The National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners currently writes model laws and regulations that individual states are free to accept or discard. Under the bill by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), it would craft a model rule governing ‘health insurance rating, issuance and marketing requirements’ that would become ‘the new federal minimum standard without any further congressional action.’ States would be permitted to deviate from the standards only by appealing to the Department of Health and Human Services.
In effect, the bill would allow the group to write many of the new rules on issuing and marketing insurance to millions of uninsured Americans who would be required to purchase policies.
‘The NAIC is clearly an organization that is dominated by the insurance industry,’ said California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a former state insurance commissioner.
‘I think the NAIC has an important role to play. They have a lot of knowledge, but I would be concerned about giving them authority to set the rules.’
The group's 56 members are public officials — the elected or appointed chief insurance regulators of the states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories — responsible for enforcing laws that vary widely in rigor depending on jurisdiction.
But the association itself is a private organization not subject to open meetings and public records law, noted J. Robert Hunter, insurance director of the Consumer Federation of America and a former Texas insurance commissioner.
‘They have no transparency,’ he said. . . .Putting the rule-writing pen in the association's hands would be ‘totally inappropriate,’ said the Consumer Federation's Hunter. ‘The NAIC is not accountable. [Federal lawmakers] don't have any control over them.’
Much of the criticism, particularly from consumer groups, stems from the departure of top association officials for plum industry jobs.”
Thanks to reader Brad F. for calling my attention to this piece. For the full story click here.
I’ll comment later but for now, let me just say, this makes it even clearer: We need a public sector insurance option to set a high bar for affordable, comprehensive insurance.
Meanwhile, on the Senate Finance committee, Jon Kyl (R-AZ) is arguing that insurance policies shouldn’t have to include maternity benefits. His argument: I don’t need maternity benefits, so why should I have to help pay for them?