The White House wants states to take the lead in consumer protection
Faced with the need to review insurance rates and enforce a panoply of new rights granted to consumers, states are scrambling to make sure they have the necessary legal authority to carry out the responsibilities being placed on them by President Obama’s health care law.
Insurance commissioners in about half the states say they do not have clear authority to enforce consumer protection standards that take effect next month.
Federal and state officials are searching for ways to plug the gap. Otherwise, they say, the ability of consumers to secure the benefits of the new law could vary widely, depending on where they live.
Meanwhile, state governments that have for years allowed insurers to set premiums virtually at will are gearing up to establish procedures to review rate increases.
Does that sink in to voters around the country? The bureaucrats and elected officials in your state may have been happily trundling along rubber-stamping whatever rates insurance companies requested.
It certainly happened here in New Mexico. In fact, a mid-level bureaucrat in the state insurance commission granted Blue Cross a 21% rate increase – the day before the public hearing on whether it was legitimate or not!
States have the primary role in enforcing many of the new standards. If a state fails to enforce a standard, the federal government will step in to do so — as it did in several states after passage of a health insurance law in 1996.
Some state regulators said they would ask state legislators to expand their authority by putting the federal standards into state law next year. Others said they would rely on their powers of persuasion, the good will of insurers or general state laws that ban unfair or deceptive trade practices…
Arizona said it was unlikely to pass legislation authorizing any state agency to enforce federal insurance standards, in view of its participation in a lawsuit challenging the federal law. Moreover, it said, Gov. Jan Brewer has “instituted an indefinite rule-making moratorium, so we have no plans to adopt rules related to enforcement” of the law…
Yup. Republicans truly have an unusual style when it comes to law enforcement.