Yesterday US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a strongly-worded letter to health insurers warning them not to blame the new health law for premium increases. Sebelius pointed out that any effects on premiums this year are estimated by a wide variety of experts to be minimal:
We estimate that that the effect will be no more than one to two percent. This is consistent with estimates from the Urban Institute (1 to 2 percent) and Mercer consultants (2.3 percent) as well as some insurers’ estimates. Pennsylvania’s Highmark, for example, estimates the effect of the legislation on premiums from 1.14 to 2 percent.
Even NC insurers are hoping to confuse the issue by blaming the health law for “some portion” of higher premiums without being clear that the vast overall driver of higher health premiums is medical costs. Sebelius makes clear that she is taking steps to protect individuals and employers from unjustified rate increases, whatever the source:
Later this fall, we will issue a regulation that will require state or federal review of all potentially unreasonable rate increases filed by health insurers, with the justification for increases posted publicly for consumers and employers. We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014.