Entries in Health Insurance (23)


Can the Government Stop Massive Insurance Rate Hikes?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Health insurance companies that want to increase the cost of their premiums by 10 percent or higher will now have to justify those proposed rate hikes, the Obama Administration announced Tuesday.

Rate increases became a sore political point since earlier this year, when the White House seized on an astounding 39 percent hike by Anthem Blue Cross of California to justify the health care bill.

A review by the Congressional Budget Office earlier this year revealed  the health care reform bill signed into law by President Obama does not contain any caps for rising insurance costs, and as such won't prevent premiums from doubling in the next six years.

Premium increases have been most prominent in the individual and small business market, Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday, and the new rules will create more transparency for consumers.

Premium costs for people with private insurance have risen sharply in recent years, with double-digit rate increases each of the first three years of the new millennium, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

States that already have effective rate review systems will conduct their own reviews. But for states without that capability, HHS will step in -- a move that is likely to spur more anger from states that are already claiming that the health care law impinges on their constitutional rights.

The Obama administration plans to disburse $250 million to states to help them develop and improve their rate oversight processes. As part of that effort, HHS gave $46 million to 45 states and the District of Columbia in August.

Currently, only 26 states and Washington, D.C., require insurers to submit their rate increases and have legal authority to reject premium increases they consider "unreasonable." Reviewing methods vary widely from state to state.

Under the new guidelines, state insurance commissioners will be responsible for reviewing rates, collecting data, conducting analysis and setting a standard. By 2014, states would be required to set a more specific threshold based on their individual analysis, rather than using the 10 percent threshold rule.

Sebelius said the notion that this is a federal overreach is absolutely wrong.

Insurance companies panned Tuesday's announcement, charging that it doesn't take into account the high costs that they have to incur given the market changes.

"The public policy discussion on health care costs has focused on health insurance premiums, while ignoring the root causes that are driving up the cost of coverage, including soaring medical prices, new benefit mandates and changes to health plans' risk pools," Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) said in a statement Tuesday.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Adults Without Health Insurance Almost Tops 50 Million

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The economic recession has swelled the ranks of Americans without health insurance due to laid-off workers losing their employer-provided coverage.

According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 49.9 million people ages 18 to 64 had no medical coverage for at least part of the past 12 months.  That’s about 26.2 percent of the adult population.

In 2008, 46 million Americans went without health insurance for a portion of the year.

Moreover, when children 17 and under are factored in, the number of Americans uninsured for at least part of a year span numbered 59.1 million.

Nearly everyone over age 64 has universal coverage, thanks to Medicare.

Going without insurance means that people skip doctor’s visits for treatable illnesses.  Older adults, who ignore their health, are sicker when they reach 65, thus requiring more doctors’ visits.  That further taxes Medicare, which already faces serious problems staying solvent.

On a brighter note, public programs such as Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program have reduced the number of children without medical insurance from ten million two years ago to 8.7 million currently.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Health Insurance Providers Scrap Child-Only Policies

Image Courtesy: ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The move by some health insurance companies to eliminate child-only policies has many questioning whether providers will try to circumvent provisions of the new health care reform law in the future. Politically, it has unearthed old tensions between the Obama administration and health insurers, as new provisions began to take effect on Thursday.

Concerns about the new law have prompted major insurance providers, like WellPoint, Cigna, CoventryOne, and some Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies to stop offering child-only policies, as the Washington Post first reported.

The health care law prohibits health insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, but coverage for children under 19 will now be offered in family plans instead of as a separate policy.  The move itself won't have an impact on a large percentage of the population.  A recent survey by America's Health Insurance Plans found that six percent of individual policies are child-only plans.

Insurance companies say they were forced to drop child-only plans because of higher costs and to keep themselves competitive.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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