HHS: Insurers in 9 states have 'excessive' rate hikes

Health insurance companies in nine states have proposed rate hikes--some as high as 24 percent--that are "excessive" and should be blocked, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

"It's time for these companies to immediately rescind these unreasonable rate hikes, issue refunds to consumers or publicly explain their refusal to do so," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday.

The rate increases were unreasonable and excessive because insurers only would spend a small amount of premium dollars on medical care and quality improvements. Plus, insurers' justifications were based on unreasonable assumptions, HHS explained.

However, the agency must depend on the nine states (Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming) to take action on the hikes affecting 42,000 people because it lacks the authority to do so itself, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

Although HHS didn't disclose the names of the insurance companies with the excessive increases, it posted online a list of all insurers and their proposed rate hikes.

HHS also released a report on rate reviews it has conducted since September 2011, finding that health insurers have had to explain 186 double-digit rate increases. Of that total, HHS reviewed 61 rate filings and has completed 28 reviews, of which 71 percent were unreasonable. State regulators reviewed the other 125 rate filings. All told, these rate reviews have resulted in insurers reducing their hikes by an average of 6.4 percent, LifeHealthPro reported.

To learn more:
- read the LifeHealthPro article
- see The Hill's Healthwatch article
- read the HHS rate review report, press release and rate review website

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