Proposed Affordable Care Act regulations announced last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHA) will drape a new sense of scrutiny over proposed health insurance rate increases. These new regulations allow HHS to work with states to require insurers to publicly disclose and explain unreasonable rate increases.

“Year after year, insurance company profits soar, while Americans pay more for less health care coverage,” said Secretary Sebelius. “The Affordable Care Act is bringing unprecedented transparency and oversight to insurance premiums to help reign in the kind of excessive and unreasonable rate increases that have made insurance unaffordable for so many families.”

Within the past decade, health insurance premiums have risen dramatically. Since 1999, average premiums for family coverage have risen above 131 percent. The Affordable Care Act attempts and has already begun to help states across the nation strengthen or review these rate increase processes. HHS awarded $46 million to 45 states and Washington D.C. in August to improve their oversight on proposed health insurance rate increases. This is simply a sliver of $250 million health reform law that grants states the right to take action against insurers seeking to increase their rates without justification.

“The proposed rate review policy will empower consumers, promote competition, encourage insurers to do more to control health care costs and discourage insurers from charging premiums which are unjustified,” said Jay Angoff, director of HHS’ Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

These new regulations will require insurers in all states to publically justify any significant rate increases of 10 percent or higher beginning in 2011. Rate increases not only will be publically disclosed but also reviewed to determine if the increase is reasonable. These justifications will be posted on and the insurance plan’s website for the public to view.

By 2014, the Affordable Care Act will empower states to exclude those health plans that show a pattern of excessive or unjustified rate and premium increases.

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