ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill requiring health insurance carriers to disclose information about their plans and operating practices to consumers, employers and doctors.
The final vote on the bill, which the Finance Committee approved 11-0, is expected soon.
In a contentious Feb. 22 committee hearing, the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tom Bromwell, D-Baltimore County, and Sen. Arthur Dorman, D-Prince George’s, debated its merits with insurance industry representatives, particularly health maintenance organizations.
The sponsors argued that much information about health plans is either impossible or too difficult to obtain. Opponents said the extent of information the measure would require would unfairly burden insurers and confuse consumers.
Under the bill, a health insurer would have to disclose the proportion of premiums spent on staff salaries, marketing and advertising, and shareholder dividends. The bill would force insurers to summarize which services are covered and which processes used in making coverage decisions.
Other provisions would require disclosure of the methods of reimbursement, and prohibit insurers from pressuring doctors to keep information from patients.
But the bill was amended to drop a requirement that carriers disclose the basis they use for selecting health care providers. The amended version also allows insurers to provide summaries of information that the original bill required in longer form.
Sen. Larry Young, who chairs the subcommittee that produced the bill’s two amendments, said the final form is a compromise between sponsors and health insurance carriers.
The Attorney General’s office briefed committee members on specific guidelines for the required summaries, Young said.
Asked if the amended requirement is vague, Young replied, “I’m very comfortable that it will be done right…. If not, [we’ll] come back next year” to clear up problems if they arise. The Maryland Association of HMOs, which opposed the measure in the Finance Committee hearing, has not taken a position on the amended bill, Camille Dobson, director of communications, said. -30-