Effect of Health Insurance Merger Concerns Local Consumer Advocates

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 11, 2015

A proposed merger between two health insurance giants is drawing concerns around the country and in Missouri, as some fear the consolidation could leave older adults in the state with fewer choices for health care.

Earlier this month, Aetna Inc. announced it would acquire Humana Inc. for about $37 billion, a combination that would produce the nation’s second-largest health insurer, just behind UnitedHealth Group Inc.

Spurred on by the new health care environment generated by the Affordable Care Act, the nation’s big health insurers are looking to bulk up, hoping to use their leverage to negotiate lower prices from providers and drug companies.

But the Aetna deal, which would produce a company with more than 33 million customers, is getting the attention of regulators and consumer groups because in some markets, the two companies already are major players. A combination could leave consumers with too few choices, critics say. The deal requires approval from the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as state insurance regulators.

At least three state attorneys general — in Florida, Mississippi and Massachusetts — said they would look at the proposed acquisition. Local politicians and medical industry groups such as the American Medical Association have also voiced concerns about the biggest deal ever in the U.S. health insurance industry.

Missouri is one of the markets where the combination is raising concerns. Both Aetna and Humana have a significant presence when it comes to Medicare Advantage, a government-sponsored program for older adults where a private company manages benefits.

Together, they have 51 percent of the Medicare Advantage market in Missouri, according to data from Kaiser Family Foundation.

Should they combine, most older Missourians would have only two choices when selecting a health care plan. UnitedHealth is the only other major player currently operating in the state’s Medicare Advantage market.

“It’s really terrible from a consumer’s point of view,” said Dr. Ed Weisbart, a family physician and vice president of the Consumers Council of Missouri. “We could end up with one company telling us which hospitals we can go to and which doctors we can go to.”

Aetna and Humana have downplayed the antitrust concerns, arguing their merger would benefit consumers through streamlined care coordination. Spokesman for the two companies referred comment to previous statements made by their executives.

In an interview with CNBC the chief executives for Aetna and Humana said they did not think the issue would prevent their deal from being approved.

“Given the legal advice, we believe this is a very manageable transaction,” said Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. “We believe it transforms health care.”

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard added that there was little chance of consumer harm in the deal, pointing to regulations in the Affordable Care Act that require insurers to spend the vast majority of money from premiums on medical bills.

In Missouri, the two companies have little overlap in the state’s insurance market for individual consumers and for employer-sponsored coverage. But the Medicare Advantage market is one of the fastest-growing, and will become more consequential as baby boomers age into the program.

Under Medicare Advantage, a private company manages hospital care and doctor’s visits for beneficiaries. They also can include prescription drug coverage. The plans must cover all of the benefits of traditional Medicare, but can go above and beyond. As a result, they can charge higher premiums to recipients, as well as set provider networks and determine which prescription drugs to cover.

Weisbart said less competition could allow companies, without recourse, to narrow consumer options to save money.

“Their interests are in line with making decisions that optimize profit and are not aligned with optimizing public health,” he said.

Tim McBride, a health economist at Washington University, said he started to worry as the number of players in a market dwindled close to one.

“In general, the more market power firms have the higher the prices are for products,” he said.

But McBride added that consumers might be protected because Medicare Advantage is an optional program. If they find prices too high, or choices too narrow, they can always opt for traditional Medicare coverage.

Nationally, Medicare Advantage has about 17 million enrollees, which is about one-third of the program’s total population. It has more than tripled in size during the last decade and is expected to grow even more. Missouri has roughly 318,000 residents in Medicare Advantage plans, according to the most recent federal data.

It’s also been a major, and growing, source of revenue for companies. An increased Medicare Advantage presence was cited by Clayton-based Centene Corp. in its recent purchase of California-based Health Net. And the 4.4 million Medicare members in the combined Aetna-Humana company would make up nearly half of the revenue of the new firm.

When asked about the proposed merger between Aetna and Humana, the state insurance department declined comment other than to refer to several statutes that dictate what the department should consider before signing off on a deal.

Approval of the merger could become more complicated on both the state and federal level if other health insurers start to consolidate. Anthem, currently the nation’s second-largest insurer, is making a bid for Cigna, the fifth-largest. And UnitedHealth, the largest, could make a bid for Aetna or some of the other companies. Should multiple mergers take place, regulators would need to weigh the combined effects on the market.

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Consumers to Senator Blunt: Save Lives, Lead Effort to Pass Rental Car Safety Bill

ST. LOUIS, Mo (July 10, 2015) – Consumers Council of Missouri is calling upon Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO, to co-sponsor legislation to bar rental car companies from renting or selling unsafe, recalled vehicles to the public until the safety defects have been repaired.  A key vote over rental car safety is expected next Wednesday in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

CCM is also asking Sen. Blunt to reject a bill being offered by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., that would allow rental-car companies to rent vehicles with unresolved dangerous defects as long as they disclose the defects in writing to the renter.  (Learn more by reading the following story.)

Under pressure from auto manufacturers and car dealers, Congress has delayed acting to protect the public.  Recently, Honda admitted that a faulty Takata air bag in a recalled Honda Civic rental car claimed the life of a 26-year-old woman when the air bag exploded with excessive force, sending shrapnel into her neck.

The pro-consumer bill, S. 1173, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015, has been re-introduced for several years.  It is named in memory of two sisters, ages 24 and 20, who were killed by an unrepaired, recalled rental car in 2004, near Santa Cruz, California.  The Houck sisters were killed by a 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise, based in St. Louis.

Subsequent to the settlement of a lawsuit by the Houck sisters’ parents, Enterprise responded to the outreach from consumer groups, including Consumers Council and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), and became an ally in actively advocating for passage of the Safe Rental Car Act.

As a majority member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Blunt is in a position to play a key role in passage of the bill.

“How many more people have to die before Senator Blunt joins Enterprise, one of our state’s largest businesses, and consumer groups in protecting the public?” asked state Rep. Tracy McCreery, secretary-treasurer of Consumers Council’s Board of Directors.  “He should be leading the way on common sense protection for consumers who rent cars.”

Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, many smaller rental companies and the American Car Rental Association have been working in concert to support the bill, asking to be regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  In addition, last year General Motors changed its position and switched from opposing the bill to supporting it, after it was amended to clarify that it would not change existing law regarding manufacturer’s obligations to compensate rental car companies for lost revenue.

Meanwhile, all of the major rental car companies and their trade association have pledged to stop renting or selling recalled cars until they have been repaired.  However, as the recent tragedy showed, federal legislation, enforceable by NHTSA, is needed to ensure that all rental cars are free from lethal safety defects that have led to a manufacturer’s safety recall.  Last August, Jewel Brangman, age 26, rented a 2001 Honda Civic from a small rental car company in San Diego.  On September 7, she was involved in a low-speed chain-reaction crash in Los Angeles.  She should have been able to walk away from the crash, but the defective air bag exploded into her neck.

Below is the letter Consumers Council sent to Sen. Blunt on Tuesday, July 7.

Dear Senator Blunt,

Consumers Council of Missouri is writing to strongly urge you to co-sponsor S. 1173, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015, which would prohibit rental car companies from renting or selling unsafe, recalled vehicles to the public until the safety defects have been repaired.  Under federal law, car dealers may not legally sell recalled new cars with lethal safety defects.  That has been the law since the 1960s.  But no similar federal law protects people who rent cars. 

As you are aware, the bill has been re-introduced for several years.  It is named in memory of two sisters, ages 24 and 20, who were killed by an unrepaired, recalled rental car in 2004, near Santa Cruz, California.  This preventable tragedy propelled Cally Houck, the mother of the two young women, to vigorously pursue passage of the bill so other families won’t have to suffer the unspeakably sad loss of loved ones in dangerous vehicles.

Passage of this common sense legislation is long overdue.  Congress’s failure to act, to protect people who rent cars, has resulted in yet another preventable death in a recalled rental car.  Last August, Jewel Brangman, age 26, rented a 2001 Honda Civic from a small rental car company in San Diego.  On September 7, she was involved in a low-speed chain-reaction crash in Los Angeles.  She should have been able to walk away from the crash.  However, the car was equipped with a defective Takata air bag that exploded with excessive force, spewing metal fragments that severed her carotid artery, causing her death.

That car was being recalled by Honda, and Honda had issued a recall notice months before the fatal crash.  However, the rental car company chose to ignore the recall notice – with fatal results.  Had the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act been in effect, making it a federal offense for the rental car company to rent out that car before the safety recall was performed, Jewel Brangman might still be alive today.  Recently, in testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee, Honda expressed “everlasting regret” over this horrendous loss, but it stopped short of actually supporting the bill.  That is totally unacceptable.

We hope that you will soon sign on as a co-sponsor and will advocate actively for passage of this important auto safety legislation.  As a member of the majority on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation you can play a significant roll in the passage of this legislation.   

Again, as you are aware, the Houck sisters were killed in a car rented from Enterprise.  Consumers Council of Missouri (CCM) became involved in this effort by working with other consumer and safety organizations – primarily Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS) – because Enterprise is based in St. Louis.  We wanted the company to know that Missourians care profoundly about driving safe cars. 

In 2012, we delivered a petition to Enterprise’s headquarters signed by more than 162,000 people supporting our efforts.  In addition, a statewide poll conducted in Missouri revealed that 86 percent of Missourians favor prohibiting rental car companies from renting recalled vehicles that have not been repaired.   

Enterprise responded to the outreach from consumer groups and others and has become an ally.  It is actively advocating for passage of the bill.  Enterprise joins Hertz, Avis, many smaller rental companies and the American Car Rental Association in working for the bill.  In addition, last year General Motors switched from opposing the bill to supporting it.  It made that decision after the bill was amended to clarify that it would not in any way change existing law regarding rental car companies’ ability to obtain restitution for lost income when they ground unsafe cars.

We thank you for your consideration.  We look forward to your prompt and favorable response.


Joan Bray, Executive Director, Consumers Council of Missouri

Click here to send your own message to Sen. Roy Blunt.

Ask him to co-sponsor S. 1173 and make sure it is part of vehicle safety legislation in the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday, July 15.

Learn more about this issues at moconsumers.organd/or carconsumers.org.


Below is an article published by Bloomberg Business about the bill proposed by opponents of rental car safety for consumers.

Measure to Permit More Rental Cars Under Recall Draws Fire 

July 9, 2015 — 9:55 PM SAST Updated on July 10, 2015 — 4:16 AM SAST

A U.S. Senate panel unveiled a plan to roll back protections consumers get when renting cars with potentially lethal safety defects, an approach a safety advocate called a step backward.

Under a bill introduced Thursday by Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican who is chairman of the Commerce Committee, rental-car companies would be able to offer vehicles with unresolved flaws as long as they disclose the defects in writing to the renter.

Consumer groups have pushed for laws to prevent rental of defective cars. Legislation such as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act was considered by the Senate committee as recently as 2013 but never became law. The panel this year switched to Republican control.

“This is going backward,” said Rosemary Shahan, president of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety, a safety group based in Sacramento, California. “This would be worse than existing practices for 95 percent of the industry.”

The Senate Commerce plan could cause car-rental companies such as Hertz Global Holdings Inc., Avis Budget Group Inc. and Enterprise Holdings to drop policies they adopted calling for the completion of all recall repairs before renting vehicles, Shahan said. Other companies wouldn’t have an incentive to adopt such policies, she said.

Because most companies don’t rent cars under recall and there are some state prohibitions already in place, the bill won’t roll back any current consumer protections, Commerce Committee spokesman Frederick Hill said in a an e-mailed statement. It wouldn’t preempt stronger state laws or stricter policies rental-car companies already have in place, he said.

“This provision would establish a new pro-consumer requirement that the recall status of a vehicle must be disclosed before renting,” Hill said.

The National Automobile Dealers Association is studying Thune’s legislation, said Jared Allen, a spokesman for the McLean, Virginia-based group.

The group in 2013 had concerns about the attempt to ban rentals of all recalled cars, he said. The dealers had been working with Senator Charles Schumer, the bill’s sponsor, on changes that would mitigate the economic impact on consumers and small businesses, Allen said.

In a May 2013 hearing, NADA argued that less than 10 percent of recalls sought by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were deemed serious enough to recommend that consumers stop driving until their cars are repaired.

Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers cited the possibility that rental-car companies could seek damages from automakers over delays in getting recall parts.

Alliance Chief Executive Officer Mitch Bainwol, who lobbies on behalf of General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and 10 other automakers, said at the 2013 hearing legislation to stop renting defective cars would be harmful to consumers because dealerships would repair the rental cars before their customers’ vehicles.

The Houcks — Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20 — died in a 2004 crash involving a rented Chrysler PT Cruiser. The car had been subject to recall for a defective power-steering hose that hadn’t been repaired. The women lost control after the hose caught fire and the car collided with a tractor-trailer.

“The promise of life my talented daughters held was snuffed out in a matter of seconds,” Cally Houck, the women’s mother, told the commerce committee in 2013. “Why didn’t the rental car company fix this defect before renting out a vehicle that was a ticking time bomb?”

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CCM’s Cause: Fair Health Insurance Rates

Recent media reports take note of Consumers Council of Missouri’s work on behalf of consumers buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.  CCM is spearheading the effort to review proposed rates before they go into effect.

Health Insurance Costs to Rise, But How Much Depends on State

KBIA, July 8, 2015

The cost of health insurance premiums – the amount you pay each month for your plan –  will likely go up in 2016. If state governments approve insurers’ proposed hikes, the average cost for the most common health plans on the federal and state health insurance marketplaces will increase by 14 percent, according to an analysis of proposed rates by HealthPocket, an insurance research and comparison site.

The Affordable Care Act may be best known for requiring all Americans to get health insurance and for providing tax credits to keep costs down for low and middle income Americans. A less well-known component of the law requires insurers to justify increases of 10 percent or more for plans on the individual health insurance marketplace. At the beginning of June, the Department of Health and Human Services posted those proposed rates at ratereview.healthcare.gov. The final approved rates must be posted before the 2016 open enrollment period begins on November 15.

These upcoming increases will be revealing, says Kev Coleman, head of research and data at HealthPocket, because it’s the first time since the passage of the healthcare law that insurers will have a full year of claims to back up their pricing. The amount that insurers pay out in claims each year is the biggest factor behind the cost of health plans.

“When the first rates were established in 2014, they didn’t know quite who was going to enroll, how much health care was going to be used, and how expensive it was going to be to deliver that health care,” explains Coleman.

Final rate increases will likely vary from state to state.  In most states, a department of insurance collects the next year’s rate proposal, and shares it publicaly. Each state has the power to negotiate rates with companies. If a state and an insurer cannot come to an agreement, the state government can prevent that company from operating there.

In states that allow public comment, citizens can play a strong role in the rate review process, says Ed Weisbart, vice president of the advocacy group Consumers Council of Missouri. “When consumers can review the rate proposals and actually make informed, intelligent commentary questioning the validity of some of the assumptions that are in the proposed increases, that can have a dramatic impact on the ultimate rates,” he says. 

In five states, there’s not an effective rate review program in place, and the process of posting and reviewing rates is left to the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). However, that agency does not have the power to negotiate rates; only the states can do that. Consumers in states without review programs, like Missouri, are then left in a vulnerable position, says Weisbart. 

States that have a review process allowing for a public comment period may do a better job of keeping rates down. Officials in New York, which has such a process, say consumer input plays a role in what is eventually allowed. Last year the average rate increase request in New York was 13.9 percent, but the final rates approved by the state averaged 5.7 percent.  “We have a pretty protective regime in place to protect consumers,” notes Matt Anderson, spokesperson for the New York Department of Financial Services.

This year, insurers in New York have requested an average 13.5 percent increase in their premiums, while in Missouri the average request is 19 percent. Coleman says there’s no simple basis for comparison for the costs of coverage from two states as dissimilar as New York and Missouri. Several factors, including how much competition there is between insurers and the relative health of the citizens go into the cost of monthly health insurance premiums.

Weisbart encourages consumers to be informed and advocate for themselves by reviewing the data on the HHS website and sending comments to both the federal agency and their congressional representatives. He says his organization is reviewing the rate requests for Missouri and will publish their findings publicly, “hopefully long before [the rates] become permanent.”

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Medical Companies Pay $72 Million to Doctors in Missouri Over 17 Months

KBIA Radio, July 8, 2015

Financial disclosures aren’t just for political candidates. New data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that Missouri doctors received at least $71.9 million from medical device and drug companies in 2014 and the latter half of 2013. Illinois doctors pulled in $104 million during that same time period, many of whom hail from the Chicago area.

The statewide totals were compiled in a searchable database by ProPublica, a nonprofit data journalism center. The payments included fees for speaking engagements, drug samples, and travel. In other cases, doctors received royalty payments from companies for devices they had helped to develop, like orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lawrence Lenke.

Lenke received about $5.4 million from drug and medical device companies during the reporting period, the biggest amount for any doctor in the St. Louis area. The vast majority of the payments — about $5.2 million — were royalty fees for the Solera Spinal system, which he helped develop during his time at Washington University. Other payments included consulting, promotional speaking fees and food and beverage from medical device companies.

“It is not ideal that the payments are presented without any context of the work provided or separated out by the type of payment,” Lenke wrote in an e-mail. He moved his clinical practice for complex spinal deformity surgeries from St. Louis to New York City this summer.

“Hopefully in the future, more granularity can occur with this Open payment system, which I am in favor of in the context of full disclosure to the public and my patients,” Lenke wrote.

The long-time, but little known, practice of payments to doctors has drawn criticism from people who worry a doctor’s financial ties to a drug company could affect their judgment when writing prescriptions. On the other hand, some doctors argue the disclosures are inaccurate, misleading and create a “chilling effect” on their ability to seek information about drugs from manufacturers.

The payments are far from uncommon: According to the data, 607,000 physicians and 1,121 teaching hospitals received payments in 2014 and half of 2013. (The United States has only about 900,000 active physicians.)

Because the payments are so common and often involve the exchange of information, many doctors would reject the notion that industry relationships have any effect on how they conduct their practice, said Dr. Ed Weisbart, a board member for the Consumers Council of Missouri.

“You have this nice, attractive person coming into your office with food, who your staff adores, who’s dropping off little bits of information for you,” said Weisbart. “It becomes a name brand familiarity. So it does influence how we prescribe. How can it not?”

Dr. Michael Stadnyk, a radiologist and president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Medical Society, said he supports the transparency of the program but believes the data don’t tell the whole story.

Stadnyk, for example, received $68 worth of food last year during a meeting with Hologic Inc., in which they discussed a breast imaging system he is developing. He said the disclosures have created a chilling effect on industry relationships with doctors.

“There’s a good percentage of physicians interacting with these companies to try and better health care, to try and improve physician knowledge and come up with a better mousetrap. But that’s being hindered now.”

Because the payments are reported by companies, and often without confirmation from physicians, medical groups argue that the data are often misleading or inaccurate.

(In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter received a fellowship this year to attend a continuing education conference, which receives donations from multiple funders including the Missouri Foundation for Health.)

Regardless of the payments’ sway, they represent a significant investment by drug and medical device companies. The largest Missouri payer is Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, an Irish drug company whose U.S. headquarters are in St. Louis. The company’s nearly 50,000 payments to physicians totaled around $3.4 million in 2014.

“Collaboration among physicians and industry helps drive innovation in patient care, contribute to the economic well-being of communities and provide resources for advancement of medical knowledge, to the ultimate benefit of patients,” Mallinckrodt wrote in a statement.

That collaboration includes supporting clinical trials conducted by individual physicians, payments for doctors who consult company reps on how they use a product in their practice and meals provided during an informational presentation, the statement said.

Where Stadnyk and Weisbart find common ground is in the data’s ability to flag doctors whose ties with the industry might be too close.

“If Dr. Smith has been taken out to dinner 42 times in the last month and a half by Company B, that would raise a red flag for me,” Stadnyk said. “It’s looking at the data … and making that conclusion for yourself. And if there’s ever any question, they need to contact their doctor and ask.”

Click here to look up payments received by your doctor.

Click here to see a chart about payments to Missouri doctors.

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Payday Lender Among First Businesses to Reopen on West Florissant in Ferguson

KMOX, July 1, 2015

While many businesses in Ferguson have still not re-opened, Pay Day Loans was quick to open their doors. They have three locations along West Florissant.

Jacqueline Hutchinson is Board Chair for Missouri Consumers Council and says that this is typical from predators.

“We know that the rates for Pay Day Loans can be as much as 1,400 percent as compared to if you borrowed the money from a bank,” says Hutchinson.

She says that there needs to be legislation passed in Missouri to put a cap on interest rates that a lender could charge. She adds that the military has capped at 36 percent the amount that a Pay Day lender can charge.

Hutchinson’s organization works with banks and credit unions to help people in need of a loan with a reasonable interest rate that they can obtain.

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CCM Aids National Campaign for Consumer Safety in Rental, Used Cars

CCM has been working closely with a national group, Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), urging St. Louis’s Enterprise Leasing to stop fighting a federal bill to prevent rental car companies from renting recalled cars until they are repaired.  Now we learn the problem extends to used cars on dealers’ lots – in St. Louis!

New: Unrepaired Recalled Cars for Sale on Used Car Lots – in St. Louis!

NBC’s Today Show recently went undercover and found auto dealers lying about the safety of the cars they are selling – in St. Louis!  In a hidden-camera investigation, NBC’s reporter discovered some dealers are selling cars that may have dangerous safety flaws.


The cars have been recalled by manufacturers for safety defects, but the used car dealers have failed to repair them.  40 million American consumers bought used cars last year.   Watch this video to learn a key questions to ask to avoid killer cars.

The good news is that Enterprise Leasing heeded consumers’ persuasive message and now supports the legislation, which will be re-introduced soon in the U.S. Congress.

For more information on the campaign to require repair of recalled vehicles before they are rented or sold, go to www.carconsumers.org.

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KCP&L Seeks Extreme Increases in Customer Charge, Electric Rates

Customers May Voice Opposition at Upcoming Hearings

KCP&L customers face a whopping 177 percent rate increase in their monthly customer charge if the electric utility gets its way before the Missouri Public Service Commission.  In the rate case, which starts with public hearings on Tuesday, April 21, the utility wants to increase the charge to $25 per month from $9 per month.  The company is asking also for a 15.8 percent increase in the usage rate.

Raising the usage rate for electricity is hard enough on customers.  But increasing the fixed monthly customer charge is also poor public policy:

  • It disproportionately shifts costs to low users, including poor people and seniors who already struggle to pay their utility bills.
  • It discourages conservation by putting higher costs on fixed charges and not on usage.
  • It gives customers less control over their energy spending.

Customers have the opportunity to tell the commission how these higher charges would affect the budgets of their family and/or their business.  They may speak at the following public hearings:

Tuesday, April 21, at NOON — Martin Community Center, 1985 South Odell Avenue, Marshall, Missouri 65340

Tuesday, April 21, at 6 p.m. — Lincoln College Prepatory Academy, 2111 Woodland Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri 64108

Wednesday, April 22, at 6 p.m. — Cohen Conference Center, Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch, 4801 Main Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64112

Thursday, April 23, at 6 p.m. — Gladstone Community Center, 6901 North Holmes Street, Gladstone, Missouri 64118

Monday, April 28 at 6 p.m. — Belton High School, 801 West North Avenue, Belton, Missouri 64012 

Each hearing will begin with an informal question and answer session. If you are unable to attend a live public hearing and wish to make written comments or secure additional information, you may contact:

The Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 360, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102, telephone: (800) 392-4211, email: pscinfo@psc.mo.gov;

The Office of the Public Counsel, P.O. Box 2230, Jefferson City, Missouri 65102, telephone: (866) 922-2959, email: opcservice@ded.mo.gov; or

Comments may also be registered in the case using the Public Service Commission’s electronic filing and information system (“EFIS”) CLICK HERE and enter “ER-2014-0370” in the “Case/Tracking No.” field.

These local public hearings will be held in facilities that meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Any person who needs additional accommodations to participate in these hearings should call the Public Service Commission’s hotline at 1-800-392-4211 (voice) or Relay Missouri at 711 before the hearings.


On October 30, 2014, Kansas City Power & Light Company filed an electric rate case with the Missouri Public Service Commission seeking to increase annual electric operating revenues by approximately $120 million (15.8 percent).

For the average KCP&L residential customer using 867 kilowatt hours of electricity, the proposed increase would be approximately $14 per month.  This would be in addition to the $25 monthly charge.

KCP&L has also asked the commission to establish a Fuel Adjustment Clause (FAC), which would allow KCP&L to recover from, or return to, customers increases or decreases in the cost of fuel, power purchased and transmission costs.  The FAC amount would appear as a line item on the bill based on the customer’s monthly energy usage. The FAC factor would change every six months, upon review and approval of the commission, after costs have been incurred.

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Consumers Council of Missouri Offers Health Insurance Rate Review Guide

ST. LOUIS, Mo., May 19, 2015 — Consumers Council of Missouri has released it guide to helping Missourians review health insurance rates in order to make an important aspect of health care more transparent and accountable.  The state of Missouri has no law requiring health insurance companies to even file their rates much less have them reviewed or analyzed.

The federal Affordable Care Act provides that the Department of Health and Human Services do rate review in states that have no adequate rate review law.  Missouri is the only state that has no laws covering the topic.

Consumers Council produced the manual with funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health.  The foundation is also funding the council to perform health insurance rate review in Missouri for the first time ever when rates for coverage in Missouri through the ACA in 2016 become public around June 1.  

To download Health Insurance Rate Review for Missouri Consumers, click here.

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Wise Up on Payday Loans

Two Videos Give Good, Basic Information on Predatory Lending

Two short videos produced by The Pew Charitable Trusts lay out the issues about short-term, cash loans in plain language.  Click here.

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Op Ed: Bipartisan Bill Protecting Ticket Buyers Should Be Welcome in Missouri

Columbia Daily Tribune, April 26, 2015

By Carl Bearden and Tracy McCreery

From very different perspectives, we — a former Republican state representative and current director of United for Missouri, and a Democratic state representative and board member of Consumers Council of Missouri — share a concern over practices in the live event ticketing industry that affect thousands of sports and entertainment fans in Missouri: restricted ticketing.

Restricted ticketing, dubbed “credit card entry” tickets by Ticketmaster and its business partners in the music and sports industries, replaces traditional tickets by requiring the ticket buyer to present the purchasing credit card and matching photo ID to enter an event. This causes alarm for consumers on both sides of the political aisle.

When a ticket is tied to an individual’s credit card, it is nontransferable. This is where the trouble begins for fans.

Imagine you cannot attend an event as originally planned. Plans change: You get sick, you have to work or your babysitter cancels. When your tickets are nontransferable, you cannot resell them or give them away. You are stuck eating the entire cost of the ticket. Sports fans with season tickets who sell a few tickets to recoup some of the cost of the ticket package are simply out of luck.

In addition, requiring the use of a credit or debit card to buy a ticket discriminates against the thousands of Missourians who do not have a card. Even if only the best seats in the house are restricted, is it fair that Missouri taxpayers who helped fund the arenas and stadiums but do not have a credit or debit card are relegated to the cheap seats?

This policy is completely at odds with both of our ideals. Whether you look at this as a free-market issue, a property rights issue or a consumer choice issue, the effect is the same: huge corporations using their market power to limit the rights of fans, competitors and small businesses.

When you buy a ticket, you own it. Ticket sellers such as Ticketmaster or the artists, sports teams and venues they work with should not be able to control what you do with your tickets after you buy them.

This is why Missouri needs House Bill 939.

HB 939 ensures that you always have the choice of buying a ticket you can transfer whenever and however you want.

New York State passed similar legislation five years ago. Contrary to what billionaire team owners and millionaire artists claim, no team has packed up and left New York because it cannot use restricted ticketing. And no artists, save Yusuf Islam (also known as Cat Stevens), have opted out of playing New York. And not just New York City. A-list performers such as Garth Brooks continue to play smaller markets in Upstate New York such as Buffalo.

Ticketmaster, and the artists and teams it does business with, claims restricted ticketing is a benign effort to limit scalping. However, they are all heavily involved in, and profit from, the resale market. Ticketmaster owns and operates several resale websites, and every major sports league partners with secondary websites to increase revenue. Even recording artists such as Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Kid Rock have been caught, or admitted to, scalping their own tickets. This raises concerns over whether the motives of the opponents to the bill are to stop scalping or to make sure they are the only ones who can profit from it.

Without HB 939, we fear the situation will only get worse. Concentrating more control over tickets in the hands of the artists, teams and ticket sellers who already control the market will result in even less competition among ticket sellers. That means fewer choices and higher prices for fans.

Carl Bearden is executive director of United for Missouri. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, represents the 88th District in the Missouri House.

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