Government
4:50 pm
Mon August 27, 2012

Ferlo Trying to Stop Highmark Premiums Hike

http://2cccd5dfe1965e26adf6-26c50ce30a6867b5a67335a93e186605.r53.cf1.rackcdn.com/Hike Wrap_Emily Farah_SOC.mp3

Highmark is trying to raise premiums for 11 health insurance plans, but one state lawmaker is trying to put brakes on the company's request.

Pittsburgh-based Highmark applied to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department for permission to increase premiums by 9-10% for ten individual plans and one small group plan.  State Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) requested Pennsylvania's Insurance Commissioner, Michael Consedine, deny Highmark's request until a public hearing is held.  Ferlo said Highmark and other insurance companies are regulated by the government, so its the responsibility of the state's Insurance Commissioner to intervene.

"As part of that due dilligence, I think it's appropriate and reasonable that you face your accusers, that the folks going to be paying these rates and suffering under these rate hikes, they should be allowed to understand what the request is, there should be proper notification and there should be an opportunity for a formal public hearing."

Ferlo said some of the groups impacted include small businesses, and contractors of municipal governments, and the unemployed.

"Give small businesses, give individuals the opportunity to learn and to be educated about these rate hikes, if they're justified, if they're not, and let these folks be heard."

In his letter to Consendine, Ferlo cites Highmark's current $4 billion surplus as "being amongst the highest in the country," and argues the rate hikes Highmark is proposing is "unjustifiable" during a period of regional "health crisis."

"The fact of the matter is we cannot sustain our local economy, individuals, small businesses, large corporations, municipal governments, we cannot sustain this continual, annual 10% rate hike that Highmark continues to put on its policy holders."

Highmark has not returned requests for comment.

Sen. Ferlo's letter to the Insurance Deptartment can be found below.