HHS: ObamaCare provision saved consumers $1.2 billion

Consumers have saved $1.2 billion because of provisions in ObamaCare that strengthen oversight of insurance premiums, the administration said Thursday.

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The healthcare law provided $250 million in grants to help states bolster their review of insurers' rates. It also gave the federal government the power to review certain premium increases but not the power to stop them from taking effect.

Those rate review provisions have lowered premiums by $1.2 billion since they took effect in 2011, the Health and Human Services Department said in a report Thursday.

“Thanks to the health care law, we are seeing that holding insurance companies accountable is leading to increased competition and saving billions of dollars for consumers across the country,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

The administration has previously touted savings from other provisions of the healthcare law. A policy that governs how insurers spend their premiums has saved consumers nearly $5 billion, HHS said in June.

Critics say the savings pale in comparison to the premium increases some consumers will face when they buy insurance after ObamaCare takes full effect.

HHS highlighted the rate review savings just weeks ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline to launch new insurance marketplaces in each state — the cornerstone of the healthcare law. 

The administration and its allies are in the midst of an aggressive push to promote enrollment in new coverage options through the marketplaces. Sebelius highlighted the marketplaces as she touted the savings from rate review.

“This type of competition and transparency will continue in the Health Insurance Marketplace, or Exchanges, where Americans will be able to shop for and compare plans side-by-side to find the one that fits their needs and budget," she said.

Insurance companies oppose rate review, saying it puts too much emphasis on premiums rather than the rapidly increasing costs of underlying healthcare services.