Consumer Advocates Push for Federal Health Plan Rate Review Bill
The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog is working to build support for a bill (S 137) that would authorize the federal government to block health insurance rate hikes in states that lack the authority to do so, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
About the Bill
The legislation -- by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) -- would build on a provision of the federal health reform law that allows HHS to review "unreasonable" rate hikes. However, the reform law does not authorize HHS to prevent rate increases from taking effect (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/11).
Under S 137, HHS could block or modify health insurers' plans to raise rates by more than 10% (Felde, "KPCC News," KPCC, 5/11).
Feinstein said large premium increases in California underscore the need for the new bill. However, she acknowledged that "it's enormously difficult to get traction" in Congress for federal oversight of health insurance rates ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/11).
On the state level, Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Sacramento) has authored a bill (AB 52) that would give California's insurance commissioner more power to regulate health plan rates ("KPCC News," KPCC, 5/11).
Insurers say that such rate review legislation is misguided in targeting health plans because the rising cost of medical services is the primary contributor to premium increases.
Regulations in the Works
In related news, the federal government is expected to release regulations on HHS' role in reviewing health insurance rates under the reform law.
Carmen Balber -- Washington director for Consumer Watchdog -- said HHS has indicated that it plans to release final rate review rules before the end of May ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 5/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.