Lucia Harkenreader's check landed in her mailbox last week: a rebate of $456.15 from her health insurance company, with a letter dryly explaining that the money came courtesy of the federal health care law.
"It almost looked like junk mail," said Harkenreader, a tax accountant in Mountain Top, Pa., who said she did not love the overall law but was pleased at the unexpected windfall. "If this is part of Obamacare, I'm happy that somebody is finally coming down on the insurance companies and saying, 'Look, let's be fair here.' "
The law requires insurers to give out annual rebates by Aug. 1, starting this year, if less than 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect go toward medical care. For insurers covering large employers, the threshold is 85 percent.
As a result, insurers will pay out $1.1 billion this year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, although most of it will not go to individuals. The average rebate will be $151 per household, with the highest average amounts going to people in Vermont ($807 per family), Alaska ($622) and Alabama ($518). No rebates will be issued in New Mexico or Rhode Island, because insurers there met the 80/20 requirement.
President Barack Obama is highlighting the rebates as a tangible early benefit of the controversial legislation.
So is your check in the mail? Don't count on it.
Self-insured employers, which cover more than half the nation's workers,