New Regs: Health Insurers Will Be Required To Justify Large Rate Increases

New, proposed regulations — which result from the health overhaul — were issued yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services and would require health insurers to justify proposed double-digit premium increases. In addition, administration officials signaled their plan to step-up their reviews of insurance rates if state regulators are not adequately protecting consumers.

The New York Times: Health Insurers To Be Required To Justify Rate Increases Over 10 Percent
In a move to protect consumers, the Obama administration said Tuesday that it would require health insurance companies to disclose and justify any rate increases of 10% or more next year (Pear, 12/21).

Los Angeles Times: Health Insurers May Have To Justify Large Premium Hikes
Moving to restrain skyrocketing health insurance premiums, the Obama administration is proposing rules requiring insurers to justify increases of more than 10% a year in 2011. At the same time, administration officials plan to step up federal review of premiums if state regulators cannot adequately protect consumers, a move cheered by many leading consumer advocates (Levey, 12/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurer Rate Hikes Face Fresh Federal Scrutiny
Health insurers that raise premiums 10% or more next year will face new regulatory scrutiny, the Obama administration said Tuesday, in its latest effort to show its health overhaul is helping tame rapidly rising rates (Adamy, 12/22).

CNN: Feds Fire Warning Shot To Health Insurers
Health insurance companies trying to bump up rates by more than 10 percent will have to answer to federal regulators, according to a new plan announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Tuesday. The proposed rule explains how the government will oversee insurers as required by the massive health care bill – the Affordable Care Act – that was signed into law this spring. After 2011, regulators will decide on a state-by-state basis which rates will be reviewed (12/21).

The Washington Post: Proposed Health Insurance Rules Aimed At Curbing Unnecessary Rate Hikes
The Obama administration announced proposed rules Tuesday aimed at curbing large, unwarranted rate hikes by health insurers by subjecting them to mandatory public scrutiny (Aizenman, 12/21).

The Associated Press/Boston Globe: Health Insurers Face Rate Hike Rule
The federal government will not have the authority to reject rate increases, but it will review them in states that lack the resources or authority for thorough actuarial reviews, the department said in a statement. If an increase is deemed unreasonable, the finding will be posted on websites for the department and the insurer. Under Massachusetts law, the insurance commissioner is granted the power to review and potentially reject rate increases that are not considered reasonable (Murphy, 12/22).

Reuters: Health Insurers Face New Rules Over Price Hikes
The rules put further pressure on health insurers such as Aetna Inc, UnitedHealth Group Inc and WellPoint Inc, which suffered bad press and drew closer scrutiny by the U.S. Congress and regulators this year when prices for some individual plans in certain areas rose more than 30%. Tuesday’s proposal offers Wall Street and insurers more details on the rules, which analysts said were better than expected and lifted some uncertainty hanging over the industry (Heavey, 12/21).

Bloomberg: WellPoint’s New York Insurance Plan Rate Increase To Face Higher Scrutiny
WellPoint Inc.’s request to raise rates as much as 28% on small-business health plans in New York will face increased scrutiny because of new U.S. regulations, the state’s top health-insurance official said. Federal rules released today tell state regulators to view rate-increase proposals of more than 10% as “initially unreasonable,” said Louis Felice, chief of the New York Insurance Department’s health bureau, in a telephone interview (Wechsler, 12/21).

San Francisco Chronicle: Obama Wants Health Insurers To Defend Large Hikes
Health insurance companies that increase premiums by more than 10% would be required to justify those higher rates publicly, according to new rules proposed Tuesday by the Obama administration (Colliver, 12/22).

Kaiser Health News: New Rules Would Require Insurers To Justify Double-Digit Rate Increases
Health insurers seeking a rate increase of 10% or more in 2011 must publicly detail why the increase is needed, under proposed rules released by the Obama administration Tuesday” (Appleby, 12/21). 

CQ Healthbeat: HHS Looks To The States In Implementing Proposed Rule For Health Care Premium Increases
The responsibility for scrutinizing “unreasonable” health insurance premium increases will rest largely with state insurance regulators as long as those states have adequate systems in place to analyze the requests, under proposed regulations announced Tuesday by the Obama administration. Health insurers who want to hike their premiums by 10 percent or more on average in 2011 in the individual and small-group market will have to justify why they’ve done so, under the 136-page proposed rule issued Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (Norman, 12/21).

National Journal: In A Struggle To Define ‘Unreasonable,’ HHS Turns To States
State insurance commissioners will continue to have a wide berth in determining how much more insurers can charge for health coverage under a proposed rule released today by the Department of Health and Human Services. But the federal government will have their backs and, in some cases, conduct the rate review process itself (DoBias, 12/21).

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