HHS Secretary Sebelius in Wall Street Journal: ‘Health Insurers Finally Get Some Oversight’

Posted on by Karina

In a column in the Wall Street Journal this morning, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sets the record straight about some health insurance companies blaming unreasonable rate increases on health insurance reform—outlining the strong oversight and accountability of health insurance companies finally possible under the Affordable Care Act. Secretary Sebelius also points out that, in direct contradiction to the claims of these insurers, the facts show that the impact of the health reform law on premiums is only 1% to 2%, and declines over time:

In the last two weeks, my department has been accused of ‘thuggery’ (this editorial page) and ‘Soviet tyranny’ (Newt Gingrich). What prompted these accusations? The fact that we told health-insurance companies that, as required by law, we will review large premium increases and identify those that are unreasonable.

There’s a long history of special interests using similar attacks to oppose change. In the mid-1960s, for example, some claimed Medicare would put our country on the path to socialism.

But what is really objectionable about these comments is not who they’re attacking, but what they’re defending. These critics seem to believe that any oversight of the insurance industry is too much, and that consumers would be better off in a system where they have few rights or protections.

Over the past decade, Americans have seen what happens when insurance companies have free rein. The cost of health insurance has more than doubled, while millions of hard-working Americans lost their coverage or drained their savings to keep up with premiums. Employers —big and small — have struggled mightily to absorb these cost increases and have been losing the fight.

…Yet even as our insurance markets have failed Americans time and time again, special interests successfully blocked reform.

That’s changing with enactment of the new health insurance law. Under the Affordable Care Act, 46 states have already received grants to beef up their premium-review and oversight capabilities. And additional funding is on the way.

The law also gives clear instructions to the new state-based health insurance marketplaces called exchanges that will be created in 2014…

…We are already seeing this new level of accountability pay off. Last week, North Carolina’s largest insurer announced a ‘one-time refund that will return $155.8 million to more than 215,000 individual Blue Cross Blue Shield customers as a result of the Affordable Care Act.’ This rebate will put an average of $720 back into the pockets of each of these policyholders…

A day after Blue Cross Blue Shield’s announcement, seniors with private Medicare plans got some news that most Americans haven’t heard in years: Their premiums will actually go down 1% next year, even as many of them enjoy better benefits.

The Affordable Care Act is bringing some basic fairness to our health insurance market. So when I learned that a handful of insurers around the country are blaming their significant rate increases on the new law — even though the facts show that the impact of the law on premiums is small, just 1% to 2% declining over time — I let them know that we’d be closely reviewing their rate hikes.

…And it’s not surprising — though still disappointing — that House Republicans have recently pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act and get rid of these new consumer protections…

As Secretary Sebelius notes, Congressional Republicans promise to take away guaranteed protections for millions of patients and give insurance companies more ‘freedom’ to put profits over patients. Learn more about the rights House Republicans want to take away»

Read the full column»

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