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New Rules “Shine a Light” on Health Insurers

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December 29, 2010

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Newly proposed regulations are expected to protect Ohio consumers by "shining a light" on the billing practices of health care insurers. The rules are part of the Affordable Care Act, and require insurance companies to justify rate increases that exceed 10 percent.

Consumer advocates say that's good news for Ohio residents and small businesses worried about constantly rising premiums. Pamela McCarthy, executive director of Central Community House in Columbus, agrees. In the past several years, says McCarthy, her agency has faced increases of up to 20 percent in the cost of health care coverage.

"This year was the most devastating because, being a nonprofit, we had taken so many other hits in funding. We just couldn't assume any bigger part of the premium, and it was put on employees. So, some people dropped their insurance."

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, health insurance premiums for family coverage have risen 131 percent since 1999. While opponents say the new transparency could force some insurers to withdraw from the individual or small group market, supporters are convinced that it will promote competition.

The co-chair of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, Cathy Levine, says the added oversight will help put health care in the hands of consumers.

"The new transparency from insurance companies on rate increases will give consumers the ability to understand and, when appropriate, challenge these rate increases."

States like Connecticut, California and Washington have already taken action to either stop or decrease proposed rate increases by insurers. Levine says the hope is that Ohio will follow their lead.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH