If you go online to the ACA and look at Section 1003, you'll see that the HHS Secretary is supposed to establish a "process" to annually review or "monitor" the "justification" for any "unreasonable" health insurance premium increases. This process will not only include the health insurers, but the State Insurance Commissioners. To help them on their way, the Commissioners are invited to dip into a pool of $250 million and, in exchange, give the Secretary their recommendations, including whether an insurer should be listed on their exchanges.
According to the Truth and Consequences article, the ACA is a stand against the insurers' "disproportionate" profits, will buttress the outmatched Commissioners' ability to review rate hikes and provide enlightened and disciplined consistency across the States' regulatory efforts. Yet, the article notes, the ACA ultimately does NOT give the Secretary the power to deny insurance premium increases, which is described as a "lack of regulatory teeth." Another problem is that, now that there's a new HHS sheriff in town, insurers will be tempted to keep premiums down by taking it out on physicians with decreased fees, more administrative hassles, utilization management, a potential return of 1990's style managed care and capitated fees with the inevitable accusations that medical care is being withheld.
The Secretary is now gearing up for this with the announcement that comments are being accepted to help craft the specific regulations that will clarify the "process," "monitoring," "justification" and "reasonableness" language. The DMCB thought it was quite clever when it actually found the web site that is accepting the comments, until it realized that about 230 other groups and individuals have already taken advantage of it.
Somewhere between all that white and black is a color called grey. To get a sense of that, check out the comments web page mentioned above. The submissions make for interesting reading and run the gamut from pleas to rely on actuarial soundness (the insurers) to demands that they be put out of business (cancer survivors). Hopefully the Obama Administration will put aside its public hostility to the insurers, recognize the Journal's Truth and Consequences article for what it is and steer a middle path.