States to scrutinize insurance prices

    The federal government has awarded states a million dollars each to monitor premium rate hikes from health insurance companies.

    The insurance departments of New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania each received a million dollar grant from the federal government to help consumers track the costs of health insurance. WHYY’s health and science reporter Kerry Grens has details on how the money will be used.

    States vary in how they will use the money. Delaware and New Jersey, for example, have the authority to stop companies from raising excessive premiums, and they will apply the funds to improving that process.

    Pennsylvania and Delaware will also add a rate comparison tool to their websites. Melissa Fox is a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania insurance department.

    Fox: By being able to plug in an insurance company name, look at the rate reviews, do a rate comparison much like you can do on a commercial insurance company’s website right now, we want to give the consumers the ability to have a better shoppers guide.

    Linda Nemes, a senior insurance research analyst at the Delaware Insurance Department, says her group is adding video conferencing equipment to offices around the state. The technology will help consumers file complaints about health insurers.

    Nemes:
    When a consumer comes into the Wilmington office or comes into the Dover office and needs to speak with someone in the other office, to give more of a face to face experience for the consumer so they can sit there and see the person they’re speaking with.

    The funds for the insurance grants come from the federal Affordable Care Act passed earlier this year. Some department may hire staff or use outside contractors for the projects.

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