Feds seek oversight of insurers' rate increases

Zeroing in on public outrage about planned double-digit rate hikes by Anthem Blue Cross and other health insurers, the Obama administration wants the federal government to have the power to conduct rate reviews to ensure that insurers don't institute premium increases that are unreasonable and unjustified. The proposal is part of comprehensive health reform legislation that the president released today in advance of this week's upcoming health summit.

The rate review component of the legislation is designed to "help make sure that people are not unfairly subject to arbitrary premium hikes," officials tell the New York Times.

Under the bill, insurers would have to submit proposed premium increases for review by the appropriate state authority or the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If any increases were deemed unreasonable and unjustified, the insurer would have to lower premiums, provide rebates or take other appropriate actions. In addition, the bill would create a new Health Insurance Rate Authority to provide federal oversight of rates, as well as helping states determine enforcement measures and techniques for monitoring market behavior. The rate board, which would include consumer representatives, insurance and healthcare representatives, and economists, would likely set annual parameters for rate increases.

To learn more about President Obama's proposal:
- read the New York Times article
- here's the White House's outline