Insurance problems on agenda
Roeding wants panel to restore competition

The Cincinnati Enquirer

LAKESIDE PARK — State Sen. Dick Roeding, R-Lakeside Park, said he will propose a new approach to restoring competition in the individual insurance policy market, during a General Assembly committee meeting scheduled for this morning.

“We are very successful in Kentucky with economic development by going out and meeting with companies and asking them what they need to locate here,” said Mr. Roeding, a member of the Banking and Insurance Subcommittee on Health Insurance, and the senate's minority caucus leader.

“We need to approach the insurance industry and ask them what we need to do in Kentucky to get them back in the state and selling insurance policies,” he said.

The lack of competition has fueled rate increases of as much as 70 percent for some policy holders, Mr. Roeding said.

Only two insurance carriers are presently selling individual policies in Kentucky — Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield and Kentucky Kare, a health insurance plan by the state.

More than 40 companies have ceased doing business in the state in the wake of attempts by the legislature in 1994 and 1996 to reform health insurance laws.

Most of the companies said they couldn't make money in Kentucky because reform bills would not allow base premiums on a policy holder's health condition or history.

The General Assembly changed that provision this year, but problems still exist, Mr. Roeding said.

For instance, people who had policies with companies that had left the state are finding huge rate increases when they try to buy new policies with the companies still doing business in Kentucky.

“I received a letter from one constituent who said he was paying about $400 a month for an individual policy, but when he went to renew the policy this year he found out his insurance company isn't writing policies in Kentucky anymore,” Mr. Roeding said.

“So now he has to pay more than $700 ... and (has) nowhere to turn for a lower rate,” he said. “We need to find a way for these people to renew their policies with their existing carriers.”

Mr. Roeding said today's committee meeting, which begins at 9 a.m., will begin the work of putting together even more reform legislation for the 2000 regular session.

There is some sentiment in the legislature for Gov. Paul Patton to call a special legislative session in 1999 to deal with health insurance. But Mr. Patton has said he does not feel a special session is necessary because the reforms passed this year have not been given a chance to work.

However, Mr. Roeding said there are some changes to the reforms he wants to see made, including:

• Establishing an insurance policy purchasing pool at least partially underwritten by the state where people who can't get policies because of their health condition could buy health insurance coverage.

• Removing the attorney general's office from the hearing process when insurance companies ask for rate increases. Those decisions should be made solely by the Kentucky Department of Insurance.

• Don't force insurance companies to sell standardized policies. “That just drives costs up,” Mr. Roeding said. “Let the companies sell the policies they need to do business in the state.”

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