Obama administration: Insurance hikes lower under new health law

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The Obama administration argued in a new report Friday that the president’s signature health care law has demonstrably reduced insurers’ requests for double-digit rate increases in the individual market since 2010.

Requested rate increases of 10 percent or more declined from 75 percent in 2010 to 34 percent in 2012, according to the researchers at an advisory arm of the Department of Health and Human Services.

And the trend is continuing into this year, with only 14 percent of rate requests coming in above that threshold, the agency said.

The report praises the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act for bringing “an unprecedented level of scrutiny” to insurance rate increases.

“Thanks to the law, for the first time ever, insurance companies in all states cannot raise rates without accountability or transparency,” it said.

However, the study only analyzed data from between nine and 15 states in 2010-2013, “using data available on state insurance websites and data obtained directly from states.”

The department noted the spotlight on rates is already in effect under Mr. Obama’s law, even though closely watched virtual insurance markets and the expansion of Medicaid enrollment in certain states will not debut until 2014.

As a political matter, the report attempts to challenge claims by Republicans — and some critical news reports — that “Obamacare” is causing a spike in insurance rates, especially among the young and healthy.

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans send out an email blast with several reports of premium hikes after Mr. Obama said in his State of the Union address that the new health law is already “helping to slow the growth of health care costs.”

Conservatives have also pointed to the medical device tax and other costly assessments under the law, potential layoffs from an employer mandate in the reforms and a Congressional Budget Office’s finding that the health care law will push 7 million people out of their job-based insurance coverage.

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