Study: Health care law to yield $1.3 billion in insurance rebates

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers and businesses will receive an estimated $1.3 billion in rebates from insurance companies this year, according to a new study quantifying a key early benefit of the health care law that President Obama signed in 2010.

That will translate into anywhere from a few dollars to more than $150 for some 15 million consumers nationwide, the new report by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found.

Obama's health care law requires insurers to spend a minimum portion of customers' premiums on medical care, a provision championed by consumer groups concerned that companies were hiking premiums to pay for executive salaries, shareholder dividends and other expenses unrelated to their customers' care.

Starting last year, if insurers did not meet these targets — known as medical loss ratios — they had to pay rebates this year to people enrolled in their plans.

The Kaiser study, which analyzed rate documents filed with state regulators nationwide, found 486 health plans nationwide that will be required to pay rebates, with the largest number in the so-called individual market serving people who do not get health coverage through work.

Nearly a third of all consumers in this market, which is widely seen as the most trouble-plagued in the country, will be eligible for a rebate.

Approximately a quarter of consumers in the small group insurance market and less than a fifth of consumers in the large group market qualified for rebates.

Despite the rebates, consumers still face steeply rising insurance premiums. The cost of employer-provided family health plans jumped 9 percent last year, according to an annual survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust.

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