Health premium increases excessive, administration says
WASHINGTON - Consumers are facing budget-busting increases in medical insurance premiums, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said yesterday, releasing a report the Obama administration hopes will tap public outrage and help revive its stalled health care overhaul.
People buying their own insurance in at least six states have been facing pressure from insurers who want to raise rates by as much 56 percent, the report said. Officials said the problem is expected to be more widespread, but data from individual insurers is difficult to obtain.
“We think it shines a light on the urgency for health reform,’’ Sebelius said.
The Democratic health care bills would lower costs for many consumers by offering government subsidies to most of those buying their own coverage. Premiums would remain high, but insurers would face greater government scrutiny when they try to raise rates.
Proposed premium increases of as much as 39 percent by WellPoint’s
“We understand this is a hardship,’’ said Brian Sassi, chief executive of WellPoint’s consumer-business unit. “This is not something that voluntarily we choose to do.’’
The Health and Human Services report said the Anthem numbers are in line with increases sought by insurers in other states - at a time of robust profit growth and a lack of competition in most states.
For example, Anthem in Maine was denied an 18.5 percent increase last year and is now requesting that state regulators approve a 23 percent rise. Maine is home to senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Republican moderates whose support Obama would like to have.