Between 2000 and 2009, health insurance premiums in New York State increased by 92 percent, while median wages increased only by 14 percent. CSS and the Health Care For All New York (HCFANY) campaign have led advocacy efforts to build accountability and transparency into the system by requiring insurance plans to seek “prior approval” from the state for any proposed premium increases.
In 2010, we successfully urged passage of a bill empowering the state to approve health insurance premium hikes before they go into effect. In 2011, however, double-digit premium increases from some of the state’s largest insurers went unchecked and drew consumer outcries. Letters from the HCFANY coalition, advocacy on the part of individual consumers by our Community Health Advocates program, and a series of articles in the New York Times helped convince the state to require insurers to make information about their proposed premium increases public. In October 2011, the insurers began to comply.
In a huge win for New York’s consumers, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in November 2011 that 11 of the state’s largest private health plans would have to pay back $114.5 million to 573,748 New Yorkers who were overcharged for health insurance premiums.
And for the first quarter of 2012, the state ordered insurers to scale back their proposed premium hikes by an average of 4.5 percent—a sign that the state’s “prior approval” process is finally working for New Yorkers.