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HHS Gives States $109M to Bolster Premium Hike Oversight

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, September 22, 2011

The federal government will grant $109 million to 28 States and the District of Columbia to help them "fight unreasonable premium increases and protect consumers."

The Department of Health and Human Services released a report Tuesday entitled Rate Review Works that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said details how previous rate review grants are fighting premium hikes and helping make the health insurance marketplace more transparent.

"We're committed to fighting unreasonable premium increases and we know rate review works," Sebelius said in prepared remarks. "States continue to have the primary responsibility for reviewing insurance rates and these grants give them more resources to hold insurance companies accountable."

As of Sept. 1, the Affordable Care Act requires health insurers seeking rate hikes of 10% or more in the individual and small group market to submit their request to experts to determine whether the rates are unreasonable.

ACA also requires insurance companies to publicly justify unreasonable premium rate increases. The Obama administration has said the provisions will bring greater transparency, accountability, and, in many cases, lower costs for families and small business owners who struggle to afford coverage.

The review program has been fiercely resisted by America's Health Insurance Plans, the lobbying arm of the health insurance industry. AHIP spokesman Robert Zirckelbach repeated earlier complaints that the federal government was holding health insurers accountable for costs that were beyond their control.

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