Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today said that a new study by the Commonwealth Fund shows that because of an important consumer protection, which Rockefeller authored, in the health reform law, 88,966 West Virginians saw insurers lower their overheard costs and profits by a total of $13.9 million in 2011.
"This study makes very clear that a key consumer protection piece of the health reform law is showing real savings for tens of thousands of West Virginians," said Rockefeller. "It's past time that insurance companies stop taking advantage of consumers and spend more of consumers' money on actual medical care. A few months ago, many West Virginians started receiving money back in the form of rebates because they had been over charged under the new rules. Better coverage at a fair price just makes sense, and now we're seeing that happen."
Rockefeller's provision requires insurance companies to use at least 80 percent of the money consumers pay each month on premiums for actual medical care -- instead of extravagant offices, excessive executive salaries, and company profits. Because of the health reform law, insurance companies that spend less than 80 percent of their premium dollars on health care services now are required to give money back to consumers in the form of a rebate. It went into effect on January 1, 2011.
This past fall, many West Virginians who were overcharged for their health insurance began receiving rebates totaling about $2.7 million statewide. This year alone, more than 16,000 West Virginians with private insurance coverage should receive rebates, averaging $374 per family. Those rebates can be in the form of reduced premiums, or even a check.
And last December, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield cut premiums by 75 percent for 4,200 West Virginia small businesses, which cover 39,000 West Virginians. That saved those small businesses an average of $2,500 in health insurance premiums for the year.