Lawmakers Demand Answers After Massive Insurance Rate Hikes


NewsChannel5, Aug. 30, 2016

The price of Tennessee healthcare will soon skyrocket, but some lawmakers have blamed the rate hikes on politics.

Tennessee Democrats have called  for legislative hearings to find out why 100 percent of the requested rate increases by insurance companies were approved without any negotiations.

Last week Commissioner of Insurance Julie McPeak announced massive rate hikes, ranging between 40 and 62 percent after insurance companies were allowed to re-file their rates.

"We decided it was better to have coverage available in every rating area in our state rather than cause the insurers to, maybe take less rate, and then potentially make the decision to withdraw from our marketplace," McPeak said. 

However, some lawmakers are not buying it.

"My question to the insurance commissioner is, how does Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee leave Tennessee? it has nowhere to go," Rep John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, said. 

Clemmons and Senator Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville, said the rate hikes are a direct effect of the State's failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

"I think anything that is done to portray the Affordable Care Act in a negative light is perceived politically beneficial to them," said Clemmons.  

The word "them" refers to the Haslam administration.

"The administration didn't just pass the buck, they punted responsibility as far away from themselves as possible," said Yarbro.

However, the Department of Commerce and Insurance said it does not want to see the Affordable Care Act fail, it does want to keep as many insurance carriers in the marketplace as possible.

"I would not even consider health increases of this magnitude if I didn't feel like it was necessary to maintain writers in the market," McPeak said. 

"The people who are going to see their premiums go up in much larger ways are the middle class families, the small business owners who don't have access to group insurance and are purchasing insurance through the individual exchange," said Yarbro. 

Yarbro and Cleommons are calling on the Legislature to hold hearings to get to the bottom of the rate hikes and why they are so high.