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Trustmark's Premium Hikes 'Excessive,' Says HHS

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 13, 2012

Federal health officials on Thursday seized a chance to tout their powers to keep health premiums increases low, declaring that Trustmark Life Insurance Company's health plan premium hikes affecting nearly 10,000 people in five states are "excessive" and "unreasonable."

"We're announcing that Trustmark Life Insurance Company has unreasonably increased health insurance premiums for small businesses in five states: Alabama, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming," Gary Cohen, Health and Human Services' Acting Director of Oversight, Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, said during a news briefing.

"In each case, Trustmark has raised rates by 13% or more over the past year," he said. "These rates are excessive and it's time for Trustmark to immediately rescind the rates, issue refunds to consumers, or to publicly explain their refusal to do so."

The agency made the determination after reviewing a report from an independent actuary it contracted to examine Trustmark's costs and spending. Under the law, the insurance company must demonstrate that it spends at least 80% on healthcare services and quality, and no more than 20% on marketing and CEO bonuses, Cohen said.

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