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Obama to tout health care rebates

11:07 AM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
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by Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON -- President Obama will use a speech at the White House on Thursday to tout how a provision in his signature health care law is forcing health insurance providers to return money to consumers.

With his administration facing deadlines to establish health care exchanges in all 50 states by Oct. 1 and GOP lawmakers continuing to call for a repeal of the law, the president is looking to trumpet the law by highlighting one of the most tangible ways Americans are benefiting from it even as his administration struggles to fully implement it.

With that objective in mind, Obama will hone in on what is known as the medical loss ratio provision of the health care law in his speech. The provision requires insurers to refund customers when they spend less than 80% of premiums they collect on medical care.

This year the provision will result in 8.5 million Americans receiving $500 million in rebates later this summer, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency estimates that the average rebate is about $100 per family.

The speech by the president follows the Obama administration's announcement earlier this month that it would delay until 2015 the requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty. And the GOP-led House approved the latest in more than three dozen votes on Wednesday to gut the health care law. The Republican efforts, which don't have support in the Democratic-controlled Senate, have been dismissed by the White House as political grandstanding.

To drive the president's point home, the White House has invited Americans who have received a refund from their insurance companies to join Obama on stage for his speech.

"This debate is all about the noise - it's about the politics of the issue," said a senior administration official, who previewed the president's speech for reporters on the condition that he not be identified. "What a day like today ... reminds us of is that the Affordable Care Act is about making sure that individuals throughout this country get the peace of mind and security of knowing that they and their families have some insurance that is there when they need it to protect them and their families."

Insurers will be doling out less in rebate money than they did last year. For 2011, 4.1 million people received about $152 per family, or a total of $1.1 billion.

The White House says insurers are paying fewer rebates in 2012 than in 2011, in part, because they are more strictly following the law and are charging lower premiums.

On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney also noted that some states, including New York, California and Oregon, already are projecting lower premiums because of health insurance exchanges that are being set up under the law.

But Republican lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, counter that their constituents are seeing rates skyrocket and premium increases would dwarf the rebates.

In remarks on the Senate floor on Thursday morning ahead of Obama's speech, McConnell called the president's efforts to highlight the rebates "just another sad attempt by the administration to spin them into wanting a law they don't."

Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com

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