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Senators Question Insurers' Premium Hikes

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, September 22, 2010

Health insurers with the five largest enrollments nationwide—WellPoint, United, Aetna, Health Care Services Corp., and CIGNA—received a letter Monday from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) asking them to explain their calculations behind "unnecessary" 2011 premium increases.

The chairmen are critical of reports that blamed some of these premium increases to coverage changes made through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Their letter echoed concerns posed in a letter sent by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to health insurers earlier this month.

The chairmen said that they had called attention earlier to reports that some major insurers “radically increased profits and reserves" in 2009—some by over 25%. These increases were "clear indicators that insurance companies would not have to significantly increase rates for the next year," they said.

However, some insurers did seek double-digit increases in 2010—before the ACA was passed, they said. "This is irresponsible and unacceptable but is not, unfortunately, surprising," they said. "If an insurer thinks it can continue to impose double-digit premium increases, while providing fewer health benefits and enjoying record surpluses, it is again mistaken."

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3 comments on "Senators Question Insurers' Premium Hikes"


Todd Madden (9/24/2010 at 2:58 PM)
As long as private insurance and more specifically EMPLOYERS continue to have to subsidize hospitals for the underpayment by Medicare and Medicaid, carriers WILL continue to raise premiums. I contend they will raise them in at an even FASTER rate after the passage of this bill. Why? Because there will be more people on both gov't programs. If carriers want to slow increases in raising rates, offer international options for surgery. JCI Accredited hospitals don't have to deal with a cost shift like US facilities do.

Bogey (9/22/2010 at 3:03 PM)
This is not called "ACA," but rather, "PPACA" (PACK uh).

Anonymous (9/22/2010 at 10:30 AM)
The letters sent by Secretary Sebelius and the two Senators to insurance companies clearly constitute a violation of free speech - "stop telling your members that you are raising insurance rates because of PPACA OR ELSE...". The purpose of the Bill of Rights is precisely to avert this kind of action by government officials (imagine: "stop publishing opposition leaders in your newspaper OR ELSE..."). They should expect lawsuits.