The Washington Times - October 7, 2011, 04:39PM

Consumers can now check online to see which insurers are significantly raising rates, after the Obama administration implemented a provision in the new health care law requiring companies to publish and explain premium hikes of 10 percent or more.

The first batch of notifications was posted at healthcare.gov on Friday, where visitors can view by state the proposed price increases and why insurers think they’re needed. The new law is one of several measures in the 2009 Affordable Care Act aimed curbing rapid health care inflation by regulating insurance companies.

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“For too long, when it came to health insurance, consumers were left in the dark,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. “In the past, insurance companies could often raise your rates without any transparency or accountability. Many insurers were under no obligation to give you any explanation as to why they felt an increase was necessary.”

Beginning last month, insurers started submitting any proposed rate hikes of 10 percent or more to state or federal boards under a provision known as “rate review.” While most states already review premium increases to some extent, the goal is to make sure every state has a way to determine whether insurers correctly calculated medical treatments and made reasonable assumptions.

Because review panels won’t have the authority to reject rate increases, the hope is that public pressure will detract insurers from hiking premiums just to raise their profit margin.

And on the first of this year, companies had to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of premium dollars on medical care instead of administrative costs. Known as the “medical loss ratio,” the measure is intended to reduce administrative overhead in the insurance industry.