A stunned nation watches in horror as Colorado readies to regulate insurers

A trio of bills soon to be introduced in the Colorado General Assembly would at long last engraft a pair of testicles onto the state Insurance Commissioner’s office.

1) State Rep. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) and State Sen. Paula Sandoval (D-Denver) plan to introduce a bill requiring insurers to get advance approval from Insurance Commissioner before raising premiums and granting the Commissioner authority to deny such approval.

2) House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) and Sen. Ken Gordon (D-Denver) are set to launch a bill that would require prompt payment of undisputed claims and impose sanctions for unreasonable claim denials.

3) Rep. Gwyn Green (D-Golden) has a bill that would authorize the Insurance Commissioner to order insurance companies to pay restitution to consumers harmed by the insurer’s violations of the law.

By now you’re likely saying, “OMGWFT??!!? Why is any of this necessary? Can’t the Insurance Commissioner do all that stuff now?” Well, no. The eunuch that is currently the IC’s office is wholly bereft of the authority that the above described bills would confer. Amazing, ain’t it?

Rep. Carroll, my current preference for Grand High Exalted Mystic Ruler of State Legislators, describes the proposals and the reasons they’re needed in this here blog entry. I’ll post links to the as-introduced versions of the bills as they become available.

Carroll is my kinda state legislator not only for what she’s doing but for how she’s going about it. Her office recently released the following press release regarding the insurance legislation:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Morgan Carroll
(303) 726-1742 Phone
morgancarroll@webaccess.net

Anticipating the introduction of major health care insurance reforms this week, insurance lobbyists have already begun full-court opposition efforts to defeat the insurance accountability reforms.

Rep. Morgan Carroll (D-Aurora) announced legislation this weekend that will require insurance companies to justify their rate increases before they could take effect. Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D-Denver) also announced a companion measure to require insurance companies to pay what they owe, when they owe it.

Lobbying activity will be able to be tracked through the Secretary of State’s website upon introduction of the bills at http://www.sos.state.co.us/lobby.

The insurance industry has spent more than $1 BILLION on lobbying activity from 1998 – 2007. (http://www.opensecrets.org).

In just the first two months of the 2008 session (Jan & Feb reporting) the insurance industry had already spent $188,000 in lobbying just in Colorado. That figure is expected to increase dramatically by session end. There are dozens of insurance lobbyists in Colorado. (See attached).

Consumers should have a right to know where their premium dollars are being spent.

One insurance lobbyist, Carole Walker, with Rocky Mountain Insurance Information told Steven Paulson an Associated Press reporter that, “rate hikes sometimes take as long as two years to make a decision.”

Given that the bill requires review of the proposed rate within 60 days, this an example of the inaccurate “sky is falling” type of arguments that have begun and will likely continue.

What we do know is that insurance premiums have increased in Colorado six times faster than inflation and that consumers are getting less coverage.
(See attached).

“We have an obligation to serve as a watch dog on rates to protect Colorado families and businesses from being over-charged and to bring transparency to our insurance rates so we know where our money is going”, said Rep. Morgan Carroll.

“I don’t think citizens can really understand why meaningful health care reform hits a dead-end unless they know how much time and money is spent on lobbyists to defeat reform efforts. The people will decide the fate of these efforts.”

The “attached” referenced in the press release apparently includes a spreadsheet identifying insurance industry lobbyists and listing their salaries. I haven’t yet found the spreadsheet online, but it’ll appear right here when I do.

Ah, yes, consumer protection legislation and a roundhouse kick to the nuts for insurance lobbyists in one fell swoop. That’s pretty goddamn hot right there!

Update (04/04/08): The beautiful and talented Rep. Carroll and Sen. Sandoval introduced their legislation today. House Bill No. 1389 is available for download (your choice of pdf or Word Perfect) here. The insurance industry fit-throwing will be great fun to watch for the whole family.

In related news, my own beautiful and talented state rep Dianne Primavera (D-Broomfield) has introduced House Bill No. 1385 (available at the above link), which would require the Insurance Commissioner “to maintain a web site that displays a consumer guide on insurance provided to the division by health insurance” and make insurers “disclose financial information to consumers.” As always, Dianne rocks.

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