According to the report, about 64% of the rate-review determinations were either found to be unreasonable, or were modified or withdrawn. Gary Cohen, director of HHS' Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, told reporters during a conference call that states made 69% of the rate-review determinations and HHS decided on the other 31%.
The remaining savings to consumers is a result of the law's provision that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of every premium dollar on medical expenses or else pay the difference to consumers. The so-called medical loss ratio rule has generated about $1.1 billion in rebates to 13 million Americans, according to the HHS report.
Separately, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust released the 2012 Employer Health Benefits Survey, which found that annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $15,745 this year, a 4% increase from last year. On average, workers paid about $4,316 of that cost. Despite the rise, analysts still consider 2012 a good year.
“Premium growth is at historic lows, which greatly benefits workers,” Maulik Joshi, president of the HRET and senior vice president for research at the American Hospital Association, said in a news release announcing the 14th annual survey. “Continuing to ensure that Americans have coverage options that are affordable is vitally important for our nation's health.”
HHS' Cohen said he has not read the full report from Kaiser and HRET, but he added: “We're heartened that the increase is the lowest that has been seen in decades.”
The 2011 report from Kaiser and HRET last September found that premiums for family coverage rose by 9% from 2010. Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, noted there hasn't been a double-digit increase in premiums since 2004. “No one has yet been able to disentangle the causes of the slowdown persuasively,” Altman wrote in a brief analysis. “Healthcare use and the economy have always been closely tied, and my sense is that the recession and slow recovery are responsible for much of the recent health spending and premium trends.”
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), who serves as the ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, dismissed the HHS report and chastised the Obama administration in a statement Tuesday.
“This report is an election-year gimmick that ignores the true total cost increases of the new healthcare law,” Enzi said in his statement. “In fact, a new study put out today by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that family healthcare premiums have already risen 4% this year. This increase is more than twice the rate of inflation,” he continued. “What this administration does not want people to know is that the new mandates contained in the healthcare law are significantly increasing the cost of insurance, which will make it harder for many Americans to purchase affordable coverage.”