KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

States Get Grants To Aid Rate-Review Efforts

On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced $109 million in grants to states to help them improve insurance industry oversight, especially regarding their scrutiny of premium increases.

Los Angeles Times: 29 States Get Grants To Boost Health Insurer Oversight
The Obama administration Tuesday announced $109 million in grants to states to help them beef up oversight of health insurers, a key goal of the health care law the president signed last year. The grants come on the heels of new rules that require insurers to post on their websites explanations of premium increases exceeding 10 percent and to justify the hikes to state and federal regulators, who also will post them starting this year (Levey, 9/20).

CQ HealthBeat: HHS Announces New Grants To Spur States To Scrutinize Premium Increases
Insurers and administration health officials sparred Tuesday over a federal push to convince state officials to more closely scrutinize insurance premium increases. The two sides traded charges as the Department of Health and Human Services announced $109 million in grants to help 29 states push back against proposed premium increases. States that have enacted laws that give officials the right to disapprove premiums they consider excessive received the most money. Earlier this month, a provision in the health care law affecting rate review went into effect. The provision requires health insurers who want to increase their rates by 10 percent or more in the individual and small group market to justify the increases in writing (Adams, 9/20).

Modern Healthcare: $109 Million Marked For Insurance Rate-Review Efforts
HHS announced $109 million in grant funding Tuesday to help states bolster their insurance rate-review efforts, while the group representing the nation's health plans asserted such attention distracts from what it sees as the main factor in surging health care costs.  "The current focus on rate review ignores the soaring cost of medical care that is driving up the cost of coverage and taking up a greater and greater share of federal and state budgets," America's Health Insurance Plans noted in a blog. The posting also cited opinions from industry leaders, including one from Scott Harrington, a professor in the Wharton Healthcare Management Department at the University of Pennsylvania, who said rate-review provisions and their implementation will neither enhance consumer choice nor lower premiums (Zigmond, 9/20).

Bloomberg: U.S. Offers Cash To States That Reject Insurer Requests To Raise Premiums
The U.S. is offering $600,000 to states that make it harder for health insurers to raise premiums, federal regulators said. Twenty states won U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "performance awards" for policies that let their insurance regulators reject premium increase requests, said Steve Larsen, director of the agency's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. Connecticut, one of the states, denied an increase of about 14 percent proposed by a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH) on Sept. 7, instead approving a boost of about 12 percent. The U.S. wants to encourage more states to award their regulators similar power, Larsen said in a conference call with reporters (Wayne, 9/20).

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