As the result of a little-publicized feature of the federal health care reform law, health insurance premium rebates averaging $151 per family are now going out to some 12.7 million consumers.
The rebates come from the "80/20 rule" in the health care reform law -- the Affordable Care Act -- which requires health insurance companies to spend at least 80% of the money they make from premiums on things that will actually improve the quality of health care provided to their customers, rather than on advertising, salaries and other non-health care-related costs.
Insurance companies that fail to meet the required percentage or "Medical Loss Ratio" in any given year are required to issue rebates to their customers.
The rebates, which are being paid by the insurance companies, not the government, may come in one of a variety of ways: a check in the mail, a discount on future premium payments or a lump sum payment to a credit card or bank account used to pay the premiums.
Consumers with individual insurance plans will receive their rebate directly from their insurance company. In the case of employer-provided health insurance plans, the employer will get the rebates and be responsible for distributing them to their employees.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all of this year's rebates are to be distributed by Wednesday, August 1.
According to a random sampling, the rebates can range from just a few dollars to $300 or more.
More information on the "80/20 rule" rebates can be found on the HealthCare.gov website. In addition, consumers can look up the amounts of the rebates to be distributed by their insurance companies on the Your Insurance Company & Costs of Coverage page of the HealthCare.gov website.
Consumers with specific questions regarding their rebate should contact either their insurance company or employer directly.