Rate reviews drive down premium rate requests

Health insurers have been asking for and implementing lower premium increases since the reform law's governmental rate review provision took effect, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

In 2009, for example, 74 percent of insurers' requests were for double-digit rate hikes. But just three years later, only 35 percent of rate hikes were higher than 10 percent. What's more, preliminary data shows that number dropping even further, to 14 percent of insurers requesting double-digit hikes, The Washington Post's Wonkblog reported.

HHS took credit for the decline in double-digit hikes, claiming its rate review program, which began in 2011 and applies to all requests for increases of more than 10 percent, helped it better scrutinize insurers' premium growth, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

"The sharp drop in requests for increases of 10 percent or more is most likely the result of the increased scrutiny that rate increases of 10 percent or more now receive," HHS said in the report. Although the agency did concede that overall healthcare costs have dropped nationwide during the same time.

A big caveat to these findings is that the results don't represent every state, but instead only the 15 states that make insurance premium increases publicly available, Forbes noted.

To learn more:
- here's the HHS report
- see the Washington Post's Wonkblog article
- read The Hill's Healthwatch article
- check out the Forbes article