Some of the insurers listed "zero" instead of their real intentions in order to keep them out of the public domain, [the Office of Insurance Regulation's] spokesman Harvey Bennett said. It is legal for them to do that under a "trade secrets" statute, he said. […]Even though this is supposed to be public information, the insurers don't want the public to see it, so they've figured out how to comply with posting their rate information without actually divulging their rate information. And it's legal.
The mix-up occurred on the "I-File" system, where companies can post their filings to OIR directly. In the part that the public can see—including the rate request—some of the companies put incorrect information.
Insurers will go to great lengths to keep their customers in the dark about how much said customers are paying, not just for insurance premiums, but for the health care they're getting under that insurance. Take this example from Washington state, where legislation would have created a database that "basically would have required insurers to disclose what they're paying for health care services based on where care is provided."
But legislation in Washington state to create the database failed— according to pretty much everyone we talked to—because of the strong opposition from the state's largest private insurer, Premera Blue Cross. The company lobbied hard to defeat the effort, which had broad support from the health-care industry, employers and competing insurers. Critics of Premera said the insurer has a strong business interest to keep the cost information under its control.Every other healthcare stakeholder in the state—including other insurers—wanted this information to be public, wanted this transparency for consumers and for providers. Even the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business wants this database. You might remember the NFIB, the national organization that brought suit against Obamacare, saying the whole law was unconstitutional. Here's their state chapter working to make the law work a little bit better for the businesses it represents.
Here's yet another example of where the Affordable Care Act is just a start in getting a handle on our screwed up healthcare system. The law was intended to create more transparency and more competition among insurance companies, thereby encouraging lower prices. But insurance companies are getting around it however they can, and calling it "trade secrets." Here's one amendment to it that you might even get bipartisan agreement on: forcing health insurance companies to be transparent on everything from premiums to payments to providers.