For Immediate Release: September 22, 2011
Minnesota Department of Commerce receives grant to step up rate review process
$3.9 million federal grant will help hold down health insurance rates for Minnesota consumers
ST. PAUL, MN - The Minnesota Department of Commerce received a $3.9 million federal grant to make further improvements to the state's nation-leading rate review process. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will allow the Commerce Department to establish a new auditing system, improve its data analysis and reporting efforts, review state policies affecting insurance rates, and hire three new staff members to carry out these important reforms.
"This grant will help provide the staff and resources we need to hold down health insurance rates for Minnesota families and businesses," said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.
"Minnesota already has one of the best rate review systems in the nation - and we have some of the lowest annual premium increases to show for it. But as health care costs continue to stress already cash-strapped consumers and employers, the Minnesota Department of Commerce needs all the help we can get. We welcome these new resources and pledge to put this grant to good use."
Specifically, the Minnesota Department of Commerce will use the $3.9 million grant to:
Review and amend state policy through the legislative process. Minnesota will review current statutes and best practices in other effective rate review states, and propose legislative changes if needed.
Improve rate filing requirements. The Commerce Department, with assistance from the Health Economics Program and the Minnesota Department of Health, will study the history of rates, benefit patterns, actuarial values and expenses. The state will also develop a Rate Review Procedures Manual and consultants will randomly audit filings to identify areas for improvement.
Improve transparency and provide consumers better-access to information. Minnesota will conduct interviews and focus groups with consumers to understand information gaps. The state will also develop a web-based tool to help Minnesota consumers better-understand rate filings.
Hire new staff to implement these reforms. Minnesota will hire three new staff members from the grant funding.
Improve information technology for data analysis and reporting. Minnesota will develop systems to produce reports that analyze filings for consumers, and a database to house information collected from rate filings beginning in 2003. The state will also develop a reporting module to improve communication of its rate review efforts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"The Commerce Department is focused first and foremost on protecting the interest of Minnesota consumers," said Commissioner Rothman. "For Minnesota families and businesses, we offer an important line of defense against unreasonable rate increases. This grant just made our defenses stronger - and that is good news for all Minnesotans."