Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Affordable Care Act rules shed light on high health insurance rate hikes

Sunday, January 16, 2011 0
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 21, 2010    Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

New Affordable Care Act rules shed light on high health insurance rate hikes

New proposed Affordable Care Act regulations announced today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will bring new transparency and scrutiny to proposed health insurance rate increases.  These proposed rules allow HHS to work with states to require insurers to publicly disclose and justify 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.”

Health insurance premiums have risen rapidly over the past decade, straining pocketbooks for American families and businesses.  Since 1999, average premiums for family coverage have risen 131 percent.
The Affordable Care Act has already begun to help states strengthen or create rate review processes.  On August 16, HHS awarded $46 million to 45 states and the District of Columbia to help them improve their oversight of proposed health insurance rate increases. This is part of $250 million that the health reform law makes available to states to take action against insurers seeking unreasonable rate hikes.

Today’s proposed regulations will build on these efforts by requiring insurers in all states to publicly justify any unreasonable rate increases beginning in 2011. In 2011, proposed rate increases of 10 percent or higher will be publicly disclosed and thoroughly reviewed to determine if the rate increase is unreasonable.  After 2011, state-specific thresholds would be set using data and trends that better reflect cost trends particular to each state.  Insurance company’s justifications for unreasonable increases will be posted on HealthCare.gov and the insurance plan’s website.

“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.

Under the proposed regulation, states with effective rate review systems would conduct the reviews. If a state lacks the resources or authority to do thorough actuarial reviews, HHS would conduct them.  Meanwhile, HHS will continue to make resources available to states to strengthen their rate review processes.  

In 2014, the Affordable Care Act empowers states to exclude health plans that show a pattern of excessive or unjustified premium increases from the new health insurance exchanges.

For more information on the regulation, go to: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/ratereview.html. For links to the regulation or other premium review information, go to: www.hhs.gov/ociio/initiative/index.html.
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HHS and Walgreens Announce New Effort Aimed at Addressing Health Disparities in Flu Vaccination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 17, 2010


Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343
HHS and Walgreens Announce New Effort Aimed at Addressing Health Disparities in Flu Vaccination

New effort will provide $10 million worth – approximately 350,000 free flu vaccines to underinsured and underserved

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that Walgreens has agreed to donate $10 million in vouchers for free flu shots to 350,000 eligible uninsured and underserved people in 15 markets across the country.

Secretary Sebelius made the announcement earlier today in a conference call with Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Howard Koh, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dr. Dan Jernigan, and Walgreens President of Pharmacy Services, Kermit Crawford. The announcement is part of a larger demonstration project being undertaken by HHS and its partners to address continuing health disparities in flu vaccination rates.

“Thanks to the new health care law, many people can get their flu vaccination without paying a co-pay or deductible, but there are still more Americans who cannot afford to get vaccinated for the flu,” said Secretary Sebelius. “With this generous donation, Walgreens is helping individuals and families who otherwise might be unprotected from the flu this season. We are also troubled by recent data showing disparities among people when it comes to flu vaccination. This donation will help us remove barriers that have prevented some from getting vaccinated.”

Vouchers are good for one flu shot at any Walgreens pharmacy, Duane Reade pharmacy in New York or Take Care Clinic, and will be available beginning early next week in the following metropolitan areas:

* Atlanta, GA
* Bronx, NY
* Chicago, IL
* Houston, TX



* Kansas City, MO
* Newark, NJ
* Oakland, CA
* Philadelphia, PA

Vouchers will also soon be distributed and available through local health agencies in:

* Fort Lauderdale, FL
* Miami-Dade County, FL
* Palm Beach, FL
* Seattle, WA



* Waco, TX
* Washington, D.C.
* Northern New Hampshire
* Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, NY

Local public health officials and their community partners in the identified cities, in conjunction with the HHS regional health administrators, will distribute the vouchers through a variety of community outreach efforts. Vouchers will be available on a first come, first served basis while supplies last. State, age and other restrictions may apply.

Background on the HHS Demonstration Project to Reduce Health Disparities in Flu Vaccinations

Today’s announcement is part of a larger HHS demonstration project with local, state, public and private partners to expand efforts to reduce health disparities in flu vaccination. Protecting All from Flu – HHS Demonstration Project to Expand Efforts to Reduce Health Disparities in Flu Vaccination targets 15 communities in a coordinated effort to improve influenza vaccination rates among underserved populations. The communities were selected based on existing vaccination disparities as well as the availability of HHS infrastructure and resources in these areas.

For more information about HHS efforts to promote influenza vaccination across the country, visit: www.flu.gov.

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