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Health insurance refund checks are in the mail, an election year gift

President Barack Obama speaks in Dearborn, Mich. (April

President Barack Obama speaks in Dearborn, Mich. (April 18, 2012) Credit: AP

Money in politics usually refers to dollars streaming into campaigns, but sometimes it can mean cash flowing in a different direction. That’s the case for 12.8 million people getting checks this year courtesy of Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to send policyholders refunds in any year during which they spend less than 80 percent of premium dollars on actual medical care. The threshold is 85 percent for insurers covering large employers. It’s a great way to discourage profiteering.

This year insurers will refund $1.1 billion.

That shot of cash — an average of $151 per household — should make recipients feel a little better about Obamacare, which is a better deal for policyholders than critics’ over-the-top rhetoric would have us believe.

But don’t ice the beer just yet.

Most people in health plans aren’t due a refund for 2011. Self-insured employers, who cover about half the nation’s workers, are exempt from the rule. So are Medicare and Medicaid. Many insurers met the 80/20 rule. And in some instances where they didn’t, the rebates, due by August 1, are being paid to employers.

Still, it doesn’t take a cynic to note that checks in the mail in an election year, thanks to Obamacare, are a political plus for the man in the White House.

Pictured above: President Barack Obama speaks in Dearborn, Mich. (April 18, 2012)