Lawmakers Considering Bill To Boost Oversight of Premium Increases
On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee heard testimony on legislation (S 3078) that would allow the HHS secretary to review premium increases in states where insurance commissioners do not have that authority and to modify or block the increases before they take effect, CQ Today reports.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), also would allow the secretary to take corrective actions, such as granting rebates to customers (Ethridge, CQ Today, 4/20).
The Obama administration proposed a similar provision in the new health reform law, but it was omitted from the final bill, partly for procedural reasons.
Concerns About Rising Premiums
Although the new health reform law includes a provision intended to control steep increases to health insurance premiums, congressional Democrats and some consumer groups believe the law does not go far enough to protect consumers against sudden increases in their insurance costs.
In addition, some officials worry that insurers will increase premiums before most overhaul provisions take effect in 2014.
Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) noted that about 22 states do not require reviews of premiums before they take effect in the individual market and 27 states do not review premiums in the small group market.
Insurance Industry Response
Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, said lawmakers should let the new health reform law take effect before adding more regulations.
She added that Congress should focus on the causes of rising premiums, such as sharp increases in medical costs and the ability of providers to dictate pricesÂ (Pear, New York Times, 4/20).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.