Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today will release a new report showing more dramatic health insurance premium increases are proposed in Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.
Keying off the Obama administration's recent probe into a planned 39 percent rate hike from Anthem Blue Cross in California, Sebelius will detail large increases in six other states and say that given record insurer profits, health care reform has never been more urgent.
Among its specific findings:
Anthem of Connecticut requested an increase of 24 percent last year, which was rejected by the state.
Anthem in Maine had an 18.5-percent premium increase rejected by the state last year as being "excessive and unfairly discriminatory" - but is now requesting a 23-percent increase this year.
In 2009, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan requested approval for premium increases of 56 percent for plans sold on the individual market.
Regency Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon requested a 20-percent premium increase.UnitedHealth, Tufts, and Blue Cross requested 13- to 16-percent rate increases in Rhode Island.
And rates for some individual health plans in Washington increased by up to 40 percent until Washington State imposed stiffer premium regulations.
The report finds that "[w]hile rising health care costs is a known problem with our broken health care system, some of the premium increases requested by insurance companies are 5 to 10 times larger than the growth rate in national health expenditures."
So long as there is no competition from a large-scale non-profit alternative, the insurance industry in the United States will continue to squeeze the American people for all they are worth. The big insurers are always and only a business, and their concern has nothing to do with health care access and everything to do with profit.
The failure of the Senate to support a public option remains one of its most appalling and disappointing actions. (Considering the doldrums in which even the lukewarm bill it passed is languishing and slowly sinking, it makes me even more upset that they didn't try to pass a better version.) One wonders how insurance executives sleep at night (big piles of money are probably bad for the back), but since their sense of shame and human decency seems to be an imperfect impediment, it will probably take more cojones than our current pusillanimous Democratic Party has to make any difference.