Opinion: Obamacare saved consumers $2.1 billion in 2012

Opinion: Obamacare saved consumers $2.1 billion in 2012

By Bob Semro

For most Americans, when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, the proof is in the pudding: Will it make health care more affordable? Will it save me money?

Heres a number: $2.1 billion. Thats the amount saved in 2012 by consumers because of two provisions of the ACA, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Thats money in the pocketbook for millions of Americans, and it supports the notion that insurance premiums can be better managed.

One provision is the review of insurance rates by states, and the other is medical loss ratio requirements for insurance companies. Weve written about both of these, but a recent report by HHS totals savings for this year $1 billion saved by rate review and $1.1 billion because of MLR requirements.

State-based reviews, mandated under the ACA, allow states to reject proposed premium increases if they are deemed unjustifiable. The states that were the more rigorous in challenging rate increases, resulting in the biggest savings for consumers, were Washington, New York and California.

In Colorado, 45 individual and small-group insurance companies submitted rate filings for review with the Division of Insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Nine filings had their proposed increases lowered, rejected or withdrawn. The average rate increase requested was 7.1 percent. The resulting average rate increase was 5 percent.

Medical loss ratio requirements say that insurance companies have to devote at least 80 percent of premium dollars to medical care. If companies exceed those limits, consumers receive rebates or premiums are reduced.

According to HHS, 13 million Americans received rebates totaling $1.1 billion. In Colorado, 208,197 residents received $27.5 million in rebates.

For more information:
Health and Human Services: 2012 Annual Rate Review Report: Rate Review Saves Estimated $1 Billion for Consumers
Kaiser Family Foundation report: Quantifying the Effects of Health Insurance Rate Review
Colorado Division of Regulatory Affairs-Division of Insurance

Bob Semro is a health care policy analyst with the Bell Policy Center, a non-partisan policy research center that advocates public policies that reflect progressive values.

Opinions communicated in Solutions represent the view of individual authors, and may not reflect the position of the University of Colorado Denver or the University of Colorado system.