"The current focus on rate review ignores the soaring cost of medical care that is driving up the cost of coverage and taking up a greater and greater share of federal and state budgets," Zirckelbach said Tuesday in an email to media. "Now is the time to focus on the underlying cost of healthcare in order to make coverage more affordable for families and employers and finally put our safety net programs on sustainable and fiscally-responsible paths.
ACA provides states with $250 million in Health Insurance Rate Review Grants, $48 million of which has already been given to 42 States, the District of Columbia and five territories.
Sebelius said the grants and the review efforts they have generated are already having an impact on premium hike proposals. In July, Oregon forced an insurer to lower its request for a rate hike by nearly 10% that would have impacted about 60,000 consumers. Arkansas regulators recently negotiated a lower rate affecting approximately 90,000 policyholders.
In 2010, North Carolina regulators saved beneficiaries $4.5 million by reducing a rate increase request from the state's largest insurance company. The grants have also been used in nine states to help pass legislation to strengthen review and processes.