KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Administration Chides Two Insurers For ‘Unreasonable’ Rate Increases

Although the government cannot force the companies to walk back the hikes in nine states, it is seeking to draw attention to the issue and asking for a public justification for the increases.

The Hill: Obama Administration Uses Health Law Powers To Call Out Rate Hikes In Nine States
The Obama administration Thursday demanded that insurers in nine states reduce or publicly justify their proposed rate hikes. The president's healthcare reform law allows the government to demand that insurers justify "unreasonable" rate hikes of 10 percent or more. The law doesn't give federal regulators the authority to stop the increases however — rate regulation is a state issue — but it does force healthcare plans to publicly justify their actions (Pecquet, 3/22).

Modern Healthcare: Two Insurers' Rate Hikes Called 'Excessive'
Two insurers' rate hikes planned for enrollees in nine states were deemed "excessive" as part of the Obama administration's latest effort to shame insurers into lowering planned rate increases. The flagged rate increases planned by John Alden Life Insurance Co. and Time Insurance Co., both based in Milwaukee, included increases of up to 24%. Both companies are part of Assurant, based in New York City, where a spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment (Daly, 3/22).

CQ HealthBeat: HHS Slams Two Insurers For 'Unreasonable' Premium Hike Requests
The John Alden Life Insurance Company and Time Insurance Company have proposed health insurance premium hikes in nine states that Health and Human Services officials said Thursday are "unreasonable." "These unreasonable rate increases would affect more than 40,000 residents," said Steve Larsen, director of HHS' Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO). The premium hike requests ranged from 12 percent in Louisiana to 24 percent in Wisconsin (Bunis, 3/22).

MedPage Today: HHS: Insurance Rate Hikes Too High In 9 States
The determinations of unreasonable rate increase requests came after independent review, according to HHS. The nine states involved are Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The rate increases, which are as high as 24%, would affect more than 42,000 people (Frieden, 3/22). 

KCUR (Kansas City): Feds Deem Health Insurance Rate Hike Unreasonable
John Alden Life Insurance Company's individual health insurance plan, covering about 2,000 people in the state, has proposed a 15 percent rate increase, effective next month. But HHS says its analysis found that to be unjustified in Missouri and in several other states. Missouri is one of the only states that does not review or require companies to file rate increases with the state (Gordon, 3/22). 

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Watchdog Calls Assurant Rate Increases Unreasonable
Pending rate increases by two operating units of Assurant Health were found to be unreasonably high after being reviewed by independent experts for the federal government. ... Assurant Health, based in Milwaukee, employs about 1,800 people companywide and about 1,250 in Milwaukee. The health insurer, a unit of Assurant Inc., had revenue from premiums, fees and other income of almost $1.8 billion last year (Boulton, 3/22).

In other insurance market news -

Scripps Howard News Service/The Seattle Times: Medical: Fewer Americans Covered By Employer-Backed Health Insurance
Still covered through work? It's getting less common. Fewer Americans under the age of 65 have employer-backed health coverage today than at any time since it became the norm during and right after World War II. As measured by the Census Bureau in 2010, the share of Americans with any sort of workplace-sponsored coverage was 58.6 percent, down from nearly 67 percent in 2000 (Bowman, 3/22).

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