Monday, August 15, 2011

A Government Grant Program That Is Suppose To HELP People?

I have a blog called Grant Basics 101 where I blog about different grant programs that are available.

Most of my blog posts on the above-mentioned blog are about individual grant programs but there are times when I come across information about grant programs, that while they are not for individuals or for-profit businesses, they will hopefully be of benefit to individuals.

Here is one of those programs:

Some states will get government grant funding to help boost oversight of health insurance premiums. The $1-million grants will help many expand public access to information about rate hikes and hire experts to review proposed charges. The grants will enable many states to expand public access to information about rate hikes and to hire experts to review what insurers want to charge.

More than a dozen states also plan to seek additional authority to block insurance premium increases they deem unjustified, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Fewer than half of state insurance commissioners have comprehensive "prior approval" authority, which gives them the power to review insurance company records and stop proposed rate increases in the individual and small-group markets. Some states do not even require insurers to publicly report proposed rate hikes.

The Obama administration and many consumer advocates had hoped that the new healthcare law would give all states full rate review authority. But, blocked from including such a provision in the final legislation, the administration has urged state leaders to push forward on their own.

Commissioners in several states with a history of minimal oversight such as Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana and Montana are doing just that. And many states that already have prior approval authority — including Florida and Maryland — are taking steps to strengthen their oversight.

The District of Columbia also will receive a grant. Said a spokesperson, "the grants would "restore some basic fairness to the health insurance market."

But expanding government power remains controversial in many states. And the insurance industry, which opposes prior approval authority for regulators, has been a powerful force in many state capitols.

Arizona, Connecticut, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia have no comprehensive authority to block rate hikes and do not plan to seek legislation to bolster their oversight powers, according to the Health and Human Services Department.

Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Wyoming did not did not receive grants because they did not seek them.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration specifically ruled out seeking prior approval authority. Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based advocacy group, urged the administration to reject California's grant application, saying the grant would "prevent, not develop, any effective state regulation of health insurance rates." California nonetheless received its grant, which is to be used to streamline collection of data on proposed rate hikes.

The administration would continue to work with states to enhance their oversight even if they did not apply for grants.

What I take this to mean is that some states will be provided with grant money to help reveiw the cases where there are proposed hikes in healthcare premiums and if they oppose such a hike or receive enough negative feedback from the public (who are the ones that would have to pay such increases!) - hopefully the states (well at least some of them) will be able to step in and do something about it!

I have read and seen (and heard) many comments about how high a price people are paying for their health insurance and hopefully this grant program will be able to help!

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