You are browsing the archive for HCR.

Health Law Doesn’t Protect Californians From Rate Increases

2:47 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog


Reporters largely missed the point of a Commonwealth Fund study released this week, that looked at consumer savings under Obamacare’s 80-20 rule, the rule making insurance companies spend at least 80% of your premiums on health care, not overhead.

The authors started with a fact we already knew — that health insurance companies had to pay $1.1 billion in rebates for missing the MLR requirement in 2011 — and that big shiny number distracted the news media. But the authors zeroed in on a much more important fact. Insurance companies successfully reduced administrative costs by $1.184 billion in 2011, but they used those savings to increase profits instead of passing them on to consumers.

Clearly the 80-20 rule isn’t working to contain profits and hold down premiums, especially in states that don’t have tough regulation of insurance premiums.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones launched an audit this week of the state’s largest health insurers to determine if consumers paid too much when insurers were actually saving money and boosting profits. The Commonwealth study found that in California, insurance companies increased profits for individual plans by $88 per member or about $90 million, even though administrative costs went down and every major insurance company imposed rate increases.

These results are more evidence that states need the ability to say no to rate manipulation. Otherwise, insurance companies will keep premiums artificially high to make sure profit numbers stay high too. As we warned HHS Secretary Sebelius more than two years ago:

“In the same way that a Hollywood agent who gets a 20 percent cut of an actor’s salary has an incentive to seek the highest salary, insurers will have incentive to increase health care costs and raise premiums so that their 15 percent or 20 percent cut is a larger dollar amount.”

As Jones said when announcing the audit:

“I have long pushed for the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate increases and this study provides further evidence of why this change in the law is long overdue in California. Health insurers and HMOs continue to impose double-digit premium increases each year and are making larger profits when selling to individuals and families even during these tough economic times.”

Californians will finally have the chance to stop them, by voting at the next ballot on an initiative measure to require health insurance companies to publicly justify rate increases and get approval before they take effect. Learn more at
Posted by Carmen Balber, Washington DC Director for Consumer Watchdog and Consumer Watchdog Campaign

Mandatory Health Insurance Needs Rate Regulation As Next Step To Make Coverage Affordable

2:28 pm in Uncategorized by Consumer Watchdog

Decision Upholds Key Protections Requiring Insurance Companies To Sell and Price Insurance Regardless of Health Status

Supreme Court after HCR decision

Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act and its mandate that individuals purchase health insurance makes rate regulation the next essential phase of health reform, said Consumer Watchdog today.

Consumer Watchdog praised the court for requiring health insurance companies to sell to people regardless of pre-existing conditions, eliminating medical underwriting, and barring practices like rescission that made health insurance disappear when patients needed it most. These reforms will expand Americans’ access to health insurance and help policyholders get the coverage they are promised, said Consumer Watchdog.

“Upholding the individual mandate makes rate regulation the next essential phase of health reform and we hope the President will join in helping us to keep premiums low now that people are going to be taxed for not having health insurance,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. “We must ensure health insurance premiums are affordable if Americans are going to have to buy it. The future of health care reform depends on regulating premiums and making health insurance more transparent and accountable.”

Consumer Watchdog’s campaign affiliate, Consumer Watchdog Campaign, is sponsoring a ballot initiative to force health insurance companies to justify rate increases and get approval before they take effect. The ballot initiative is awaiting certification for the ballot. More on the ballot measure at:

A Consumer Watchdog report finds that strong rate regulation is necessary to hold down costs and keep insurance affordable under health reform. The report examined Massachusetts where rate regulation has begun to successfully hold down premiums after the state’s individual mandate, which was the model for federal reform, failed to control costs.

Download the report “Health Reform and Insurance Regulation: Can’t Have One Without The Other”