For Immediate Release

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Contact: 

Phone: (202) 546-9707

Consumer Advocates Urge Tight Check on Insurance Companies

WASHINGTON - A national
consumer advocacy group urged Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and
Human
Services, to make the most of new consumer protections for health
insurance
consumers in comments submitted on May 14 and released on Wednesday.

“If
implemented well, these new
consumer protections will mean that families, who have long faced
skyrocketing
rates and the threat of coverage denials, will find some measure of
control
returning to their health and finances,” explained Larry McNeely, Health
Care Advocate
U.S. Public
Interest Research Group
. for the

U.S. PIRG’s
recommendations come in
response to requests for public comment from the Department of Health
and Human
Services and other federal agencies on how to implement the recently
enacted
two key provisions of the federal health reform law. 

The first
set of recommendations (PDF)
pertains to new federal standards
requiring
insurers to dedicate a certain percentage of their premiums to medical
purposes, not administrative expenses or corporate profits. 

The second
set of recommendations (PDF
) focuses on a new procedure whereby the
federal
government gathers information on and reviews unreasonable proposed rate
hikes
by insurers across the country.

The leading
insurance industry trade group,
America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), has also weighed in on the
proposed regulations in comments
(PDF)
, also delivered on May 14.

“AHIP wants to
write in loopholes so
big you can drive a truck through them,” commented McNeely, “but
we’re confident that this Department of Health and Human Services knows
that letting up the pressure on the insurance industry would only hurt
the
American consumer.”

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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