New Site To Let Us Monitor Health Insurance Rate Hikes

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From USA Today:

By Kelly Kennedy

WASHINGTON – Beginning Thursday, consumers across the country can click their state on a federal Web page to see if a health insurer has raised its rates, as well as the company’s reason for doing so.

That information was mostly unavailable before, said Steve Larsen, the Department of Health and Human Services deputy director for oversight. Only a few states include rate raises on their websites. Now, however, all insurance companies must file that information with HHS because of last year’s health care law.

The site’s address is http://companyprofiles.healthcare.gov/.

“We are taking a good, hard look at why insurance companies are seeking to raise your rates, why your premiums might be going up, and making sure these decisions are public and justified,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “This is just a start, and over time we will be reporting more of these requests.”

The announcement comes after a survey by Kaiser Family Foundation released last week that showed premiums for an employer-sponsored plan for a family of four rising 9% this year.

Meanwhile, a report by Barclays Capital Equity Research showed that in the first three months of the year, 13 of the top 14 health insurers exceeded their earnings per share estimates and that average earnings were 46% over estimates.

Beginning Sept. 1, insurers who wanted to raise their rates 10% or more for individual or small group plans had to say why. If a company has not raised its rates, it will not be listed on the Web application at Healthcare.gov.

Insurers now must also pay consumers rebates if at least 85% of the money spent on a plan does not go directly to health costs and instead to something else, such as salary increases or administrative costs. Those rebates will begin next year, Larsen said, and that information would be included on the website as it becomes available.

The new site will also include a section where consumers can comment about rate increases.

If HHS provides “consumers a better idea of the rate increases in a system with a lot of costs, that’s good,” said Susan Voss, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Consumers, she said, should recognize that some increases are justified, and an increase is just one factor to consider when deciding whether to buy or keep a policy.

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