Today, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) announced that a critical new consumer protection provision of the health care reform law has taken effect. Now, health insurers seeking to increase their rates by 10 percent or more must submit their request to state or federal reviewers to determine whether they are reasonable or not. This rate review program, created by the Affordable Care Act, will bring greater transparency, accountability, and, in many cases, lower costs for families and small business owners who struggle to afford coverage.
In a growing number of states, regulators now have the authority to deny or reduce rate hikes found to be excessive. Insurers that insist on going ahead with double-digit rate increases are required to post their justifications on their website, and state and federal regulators will post them as well.
"For far too long, families and small businesses have been at the mercy of insurance rate increases that often put coverage out of their reach," said Rep. Baca. "Thanks to the historic health care reform legislation, we will finally shed light on the industry's behavior. This transparency is of vital importance in driving market competition, and will ultimately result in lower costs for consumers."
As of this week, insurers proposing double digit increases will have to provide clear information that indicates what factors are causing the proposed increases. Experts will closely examine information about the underlying cost trends in health care to flag instances when insurance companies are unjustly raising costs. This means consumers will no longer have to take the word of their insurance company; they will have an independent expert reviewing their proposed rate increase.
Starting mid-September, consumers in every state can go to HealthCare.gov to view easy-to-access, consumer-friendly disclosure information explaining proposed increases that are 10 percent or higher than last year's rates.
"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act consumers no longer have to navigate the health insurance market blindly," concluded Rep. Baca. "The next time your insurance company tries to raise your premium by double digits, it will have to give you and rate review experts a good reason, or face denial from many of our state governments. As the rest of the provisions of health insurance reform are responsibly enacted, rest assured Democrats in Congress and the Obama administration will keep a watchful eye to ensure the interests of the American public, and not the insurance companies, are best served."
For more information on rate reviews and what they mean for your health care coverage, please visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/ratereview09012011a.html