Testimonies by the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), insurance industry representatives and advocates for consumers gave the public as well as Assembly members a lot to think about during last Thursday’s public hearing for AB 210. AB 210, described as a “technical corrections bill,” would implement some of the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, while weakening key protections already in place in Wisconsin. Patient and consumer advocates want to implement state statues that give consumers more protection and more rights, while also being in compliance with federal regulations under the Affordable Care Act.
Some concerns that were raised in testimonies in opposition to AB 210 were around the broad and seemingly ambiguous authorities given to OCI. This bill gives the Insurance Commissioner emergency rule- making authority-even if no emergency is found and allows OCI to decline disclosure of rate filing if determined to be proprietary. Furthermore, one of the most controversial portions of this bill is that it provides “for a repeal of all health reform insurance law changes should the law be held unconstitutional.”
Continuously pressed for answers about the specifics of what this means from members of the Assembly Insurance Committee, OCI offered very little details. For instance, the bill does not define what happens if only portions of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act are found unconstitutional; an outcome more likely to occur than all provisions being found unconstitutional. OCI’s response to this ever important concern was that, due to authorities given under current law, they would look at all provisions and based on what individual provisions are affected by the specific piece that is ruled as unconstitutional, case by case exemptions may be given.
Due to more questions than answers provided at the Assembly hearing on this bill, and with no assurance of the utmost protection for consumers for long term reform, we believe there is a better way to align Wisconsin law around consumer protections with federal regulations. The Patient’s Bill of Rights, an alternative to AB 210, sponsored by Sen. Jon Erpenbach and Rep. Jon Richards would provide strong consumer protections for Wisconsinites, as well as block delegation of power to the Insurance Commissioner that overreaching and unnecessary.