Consumer Watchdog Asks Centene, Health Net Execs To Commit To Correct Network Deficiencies, Ensure Fair Rates, Prove Consumers Will Not Pay Merger Costs, At Hearing Today

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Sacramento, CA — Consumer Watchdog will challenge executives at a Department of Insurance hearing into the proposed Centene/Health Net merger to commit to strong consumer protections as conditions of a merger approval.
The Department of Insurance has broad authority to set conditions on the merger deal.
“The history of health insurance mergers is fewer choices for consumers, reduced benefits and higher premiums. Health Net and Centene must commit to strong consumer protections – including adequate networks, fair rates and proof of no cost-shifting to consumers – or the Department of Insurance should reject this merger,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.
Consumer Watchdog’s questions for the executives at today’s hearing include:
— Centene anticipates $150 million in cost savings from merger. Will Centene commit that these savings will not be made by reducing benefits or networks?
—Will Centene commit to not withdraw plans from any regions of the state?
— Consumer Watchdog is currently involved in litigation on behalf of Health Net consumers because the insurer failed to provide customers accurate information about which providers were participating in their networks.  Will Centene promise to resolve pending litigation to benefit consumers, including refunding any increased out of pocket costs that consumers paid as a result of HealthNet’s “narrow” provider networks?
— Will Centene submit the Health Net provider network now to a full review of network adequacy as a condition of approval of the merger?
—Will Centene commit to not implement any rate proposal the Commissioner finds to be unreasonable?
— Will Centene commit to account for financing and executive compensation costs of the merger in annual rate filings to demonstrate that no such costs are passed on to California policyholders?
Will Centene commit to providing a detailed accounting of any amount Health Net pays to the parent company for administrative services, including the market value of those services, to demonstrate merger costs are not also being passed on?
Will Centene commit to not upstream or dividend any amounts?
Read Consumer Watchdog’s comment letter to the Department of Insurance on the merger:
Read more about Consumer Watchdog’s litigation on behalf of Health Net consumers here:‘bait-switch’-misrepresentations-doctor-and-hospital-networks

Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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