Senators Question Insurers' Premium Hikes

Janice Simmons, 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."

Janice Simmons Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.
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