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Deuell Asks Kitzman to Reconsider Consumer Protection Rules

A decision to table new rules intended to protect consumers has landed state Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman in hot water with the chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, which will play a key role in the decision to confirm her appointment.

Texas Sen. Bob Deuell and Texas Department of Insurance Commissioner, Eleanor Kitzman

Updated, 5:50 p.m.:

Kitzman also sent out a letter Tuesday — to members of the Legislature — addressing a recent editorial in the Dallas Morning News that was critical of the balance billing rules she proposed. In her letter, Kitzman emphasized she has not finalized the new balance billing rules.

“Even so, when you examine the proposed rule, it not only maintains, but enhances the consumer’s ability to understand and navigate networks,” she wrote. “The department proposed eliminating very few of the new network adequacy reporting requirements, which were determined to be duplicative of other reporting requirements and potentially confusing.”

Scroll down to read both Kitzman’s letter to legislators and Sen. Bob Deuell’s letter to Kitzman below.

Original story:

A decision to table new rules intended to protect consumers has landed state Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman in hot water with the chairman of the Senate Nominations Committee, which will play a key role in the decision to confirm her appointment in the upcoming legislative session.

“There are many senators, Republican and Democratic, that are concerned that she’s a little too pro-insurance company,” said Sen. Bob Deuell, R-Greenville, who chairs the Senate Nominations Committee.

The so-called balance billing rules Kitzman put the brakes on in December — measures put in place by her predecessor that would have taken effect this spring — would have required health insurance companies to make clear to policyholders which providers are included in their network, and thus covered by their health plan.

According to The Dallas Morning News, Kitzman said that requiring insurance companies to disclose holes in network adequacy would "not provide substantial benefit to consumers and may lead to increased premiums." She released her own proposed rules in June that did not include several disclosure requirements that were in the original language. 

Deuell sent Kitzman a letter on Tuesday saying the rules were the result of "years of legislation and stakeholder input and negotiation."

"And she just comes in and gets rid of them without very much time on the job,” he said in a phone interview. 

Gov. Rick Perry chose Kitzman to lead the TDI after the previous commissioner stepped down, and she was officially appointed in August 2011. Her appointment has not been confirmed by the Texas Senate. Deuell said Kitzman’s decision to rescind the balance billing rules “absolutely” could impact the Senate’s decision to approve her appointment.

Stacey Pogue, a health policy analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said the rules Kitzman pulled back "do not prevent balance billing or unexpected balance bills." 

"But they require new consumer protections and really focused on the transparency and disclosure piece of network adequacy," she said.

[Editor's note: An earlier version of this story credited the Associated Press for a story that originally ran in The Dallas Morning News.]

 

 

 

 

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