The Obama administration announced Monday it's making $51 million available to states that want to beef up oversight of health insurance rate hikes.
Outrage over premium increases was a turning point in the national healthcare debate earlier this year, after Anthem Blue Cross proposed hikes of up to 39 percent in California. The company ultimately withdrew the plan, but not before President Barack Obama used it to help revive his stalled legislation.
The $51 million announced Monday is the first installment of a five-year, $250 million grant program created under the healthcare overhaul law to help state regulators challenge unreasonable rate hikes. The Health and Human Services Department said states can get $1 million each this year.
Small businesses and consumers who buy their policies directly are likely to be the main beneficiaries of stronger oversight. Many states currently require insurers to obtain prior approval for increases, but some do not. Under the new federal law, insurers will be required to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on healthcare.
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