In preparation for the health care summit on February 25th and in response to exorbitant rate increases proposed by certain insurers, the White House has indicated that it will introduce changes it believes are essential to health care reform.
The proposals are to be set forth on the White House web site today.
Blue Cross rate hikes in California fuel some of the proposals
The decision of Anthem Blue Cross of California to raise rates on some of their individual policies by as much as 39% sparked both anger and outrage from Washington and California lawmakers. The President even mentioned the increases during his weekly radio address and at a town hall meeting in Nevada.
The President was in Nevada supporting the reelection of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
It is believed that the President will include a request for new federal government power to regulate health insurance rate increases. When the Blue Cross rate increase were made public last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius could only send a public letter to the company to ask for an explanation.
The California Insurance Commission, Steven Poizner, also launched a public inquiry into the rate increases. Together with the California Attorney General, the Insurance Commissioner has more power to regulate health insurance rate increases in the state.
Unfortunately, the Department of Insurance has less power to regulate rates than some lawmakers would like. Changes have been proposed but would require action by the California legislature.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has proposed legislation which would give health and Human Services some new authority on the federal level. It would allow oversight and the ability to at least partially block rate increases that might be deemed unfair.
California not the only state suffering from huge health insurance rate increases
Last Friday, Sen. Feinstein introduced her legislation aimed at preventing insurance carriers from unilaterally and unfairly raising health insurance premiums. Citing a report from the Department of Health and Human Services, Sen. Feinstein noted that it was not just Blue Cross in California that was guilty of excessive rate increases.
That report noted that other states also experienced dramatic rate increases, including as much as
- 56% in Michigan
- 24% in Connecticut, and
- 23% in Maine.
The White House may propose that Health and Human Services conduct and annual review and work with state officials to stop health insurance rate increases which are deemed excessive.
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