TN insurance commissioner takes umbrage at Obama remarks

In his Nashville appearance this week, President Obama said that state insurance commissioners need to be taking a close look at insurance premium increases proposed by companies. In a news release Thursday, Tennessee Commerce and Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said that’s already happening.

From The Tennessean:
In responding to a question from Marian Hurst — a retiree in Mt. Juliet who buys insurance on the federally run exchange —about BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s recent proposed rate increase, Obama said in his Madison speech on Wednesday that it’s important for the state’s insurance commissioner to actively question insurers.

“So I think the key for Tennessee is just making sure that the insurance commissioner does their job in not just passively reviewing the rates, but really asking, ‘OK, what is it that you are looking for here? Why would you need very high premiums?’ ” Obama said. “And my expectation is, is that they’ll come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.”

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has requested on average a rate increase of 36.3 percent for insurance premiums in 2016. Other insurers on the exchange in Tennessee have requested average rate increases ranging from 0.4 to 36.3 percent.

McPeak had recently testified to a congressional subcommittee that the BCBS premium hike might not be big enough. Here’s her department’s news release sent to media:

NASHVILLE – Today the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) released the following statement following President Obama’s July 1 visit to Nashville and his comments about the process of insurance rate review:

“TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak and our seasoned team of insurance regulators are not passively reviewing insurance rates for the coming year as the President suggested. The Commissioner and our team have always taken the job of protecting Tennessee consumers seriously and are unafraid to ask hard questions of the companies we regulate in order to better protect consumers. Commissioner McPeak’s recent testimony* to a subcommittee of the House Ways & Means Committee offers proof of our oversight as well as a snapshot of the impact of the Affordable Care Act on Tennesseans and insurers.

“All rate filings are assigned to our consulting actuary for review. The actuary reviews the filings in accordance with statutes, regulations and accepted actuarial guidelines for completeness and actuarial justification. The actuary then makes a recommendation as to the appropriateness of the filing; TDCI makes the final decision about whether or not to accept the rate increase request, offer a reduced amount or deny the request.

“Typically, the actuary has questions, seeks clarifications or requests additional information in order to make their recommendation during the process. It is not unusual for several letters to be exchanged on a filing.

“The Department’s deadline for final approval is August 25. Consumers who have questions or want more information can visit our website for more information. We are happy to field any questions or comments consumers may have.”