Escalating a long-running battle over the state's Freedom of Information law,the state is yanking the primary management of the HUSKY health insurance program for poor children out of the hands of four insurance companies.
The announcement Monday by Gov. M. Jodi Rell marked the latest stage in a battle that has lasted more than two years over whether the private companies could be forced to comply with public FOI disclosure laws.
The HMOs have refused to reveal the rates they pay to doctors for various services, saying the information is proprietary. Legislators have also complained that the insurance companies have refused to reveal how often they deny payments for prescription drugs and which drugs are rejected.
The two largest companies in the HUSKY program — Anthem Health Plans Inc. and Health Net — have repeatedly rejected Rell's demand that they comply with the disclosure law, and have said they are willing to drop their contracts if the FOI disclosure is required.
'These companies refuse to abide by our public disclosure law, despite being required to do so, and they were also willing to walk away from providing services to our children if they had to live up to this requirement,' Rell said Monday. 'They may have been willing to walk away, but I am not. We spend over $700 million a year in taxpayer money to provide these services under the HUSKY program to children and parents in Connecticut's working families. It is only right to fully disclose how this money is spent.'
Both the state's Freedom of Information Commission and Superior Court Judge George Levine have upheld the request for disclosure, ruling that the private companies are performing a public function by managing the state's Medicaid program for about 325,000 people. One of the four companies — WellCare Health Plans Inc. of Florida — did not join with the other three in appealing the Superior Court ruling to the state Appellate Court.
Low-income HUSKY patients were having difficulty getting appointments with specialists, and some believed that the appointments were blocked because reimbursement rates were so low, officials said.
This is a reminder that for many large health care corporations, transparency aren't us. So how are we supposed to let the "free market" improve health care, when no one knows what prices anyone pays for health services?
Note that we have also posted about how Health Net Inc is in trouble with California state health insurance regulators for concealing information from them and retroactively cancelling individual health policies after their holders got sick. We have also posted about how Blue Cross health insurance operated by WellPoint Inc is in trouble in California also for retroactively cancelling sick people's individual health policies. Anthem Health Plans are subsidiaries of WellPoint. Is there anyone left that believes US for-profit managed care organizations' warm and fuzzy statements (like Wellpoint's advertised commitments discussed in this post) about how they are out to improve health and help policy holders?
A little more truth and transparency would go a long way to improving the mess that is now US health care.