Health care premium protection is on its way.

Since 1999, the cost of health insurance coverage for a family of four has climbed 131 percent. Many times, insurance companies have been able to raise rates without explaining their actions to regulators or the public or justifying the reasons for their high premiums. In most cases, consumers receive little or no information about proposed premium increases, and aren’t told why companies want to raise rates.

Not anymore.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010 brought a new level of scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases. The act ensures that, in any state, large proposed increases will be evaluated by experts to make sure they are based on reasonable cost assumptions and solid evidence. This analysis is expected to help moderate premium hikes and provide those who buy insurance with greater value for their premium dollar. Additionally, insurance companies must provide easy-to-understand information to their customers about their reasons for significant rate increases, as well as publicly justify and post on their Web site any unreasonable rate increases.

 On May 19, 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), working in partnership with states, issued a final regulation to implement this important consumer protection from the Affordable Care Act.

The new rate review regulation will help bring down costs for consumers. Rate review will help make sure that increases are based on reasonable estimates and real-time data on medical cost trends and health care utilization. Experts across the country will review insurers’ projections of health care costs to assess whether premium increases are based on sound, up-to-date information. Insurers that propose increases above the threshold set for review will have to post clear information that indicates what factors are causing proposed increases. And experts will closely examine recent trends to flag instances when insurance companies are unjustly raising costs for their customers.