Advice delayed on U.S. health insurer spending

* NAIC says final recommendation now likely in July

* Insurance spending proposal had been expected June 1

WASHINGTON, May 24 (BestGrowthStock) – State insurance regulators
say they will need more time to produce their recommendation on
an issue at the center of the debate over how U.S. health
insurance companies spend their customers’ dollars.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC)
was asked to deliver their recommendation on how to define
medical expenses versus administrative spending by June 1, but
now say it will take at least another month to deliver a
detailed response.

NAIC said in a statement on Monday that it would respond to
U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius by June 1 but it “will
not include the final definitions and calculation
methodologies.” The group said no date had yet been set, but a
spokesman said the goal was July 1.

Under the recently passed health care reform law the
medical loss ratio is limited under the law. Starting in 2011,
large health insurance plans must spend at least 85 cents of
every premium dollar on actual medical care while small or
individual plans must spend at least 80 cents on the dollar.

The ratio is closely watched by investors as a key sign of
potential profitability and monthly premium rates.

The health reform law gave NAIC until the end of the year
to provide their recommendation but the group was asked by
federal regulators to produce it by June 1.

The debate over how to define medical spending has thrust
the little-known NAIC into the spotlight.

At issue is whether certain services such as nurse hotlines
and electronic medical records are considered crucial to
providing better care or administrative programs aimed at
reducing an insurer’s costs.

Companies have urged the NAIC to adopt broad definition to
give them flexibility, while consumer groups want to see tight
definitions to assure that services are aimed a benefiting
patients, not insurers’ bottom lines.

Stock Market Research Tools
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

Advice delayed on U.S. health insurer spending