RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Federal regulators on Thursday allowed North Carolina insurers a one-year delay in meeting a benchmark requiring that more of each premium dollar to go toward medical services and less toward overhead and bonuses.

The decision by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services means consumers whose health insurance company failed in 2011 to limit profits, salaries, and other administrative costs to no more than 20 percent of premiums will not receive the rebates they could have gotten this summer.

Insurers are required by the federal health overhaul law to spend at least 80 percent on medical care, a mark called the "medical-loss ratio."

"They're among the most important consumer protections" in the health overhaul law by making sure more of their premium dollars go toward services delivered, said Steve Larsen, director of the federal agency's Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. "We know that insurers have already begun adjusting their pricing."

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