Health insurance companies have to get permission from insurance regulators for their prices every year, whether premiums are increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. In New York, our insurance regulators (the Department of Financial Services, or DFS) consider public comments when making their decision. To help consumers make informed comments, DFS posts the insurers’ applications on their website. Insurers also send letters to their customers informing them about their rate request and with instructions for commenting. Public comments are due by July 9.
The posted applications show that New York’s insurance market is robust, despite predictions that the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act would “explode” this year. Consumers shopping for individual or small group plans for 2018 still have lots of options at different price points. Insurers are asking for slightly smaller increases than they did last year (an average 16.6 percent increase in the individual market and 11.5 percent in the small group market). But of course, any increase can be hard for consumers and small business to bear. Consumers should remember that if you get premium assistance through the Advanced Premium Tax Credits, that assistance will reduce the impact of any rate increase. People should also understand that the requested amounts they see in the letters and on the DFS website are not final. The companies have to prove that their costs have gone up and that they have to raise prices to maintain a healthy business. If they can’t do that, DFS will reduce their requests.
HCFANY submits comments every year. Those letters (you can read the ones from last year here) include a detailed review of the companies’ applications. But comments do not have to be so detailed. You can find our guide to the process here. We also posted some example letters to help people get started (available here). But it is valuable for DFS to hear from consumers in their own words, so don’t feel like you have to stick to one template. Once you have written out what you want to say, you can copy and paste it into the form provided by DFS.