Senators Seek $100 Billion For Health Reform From Insurers
"Key senators say they want to force the health insurance industry to pay as much as $100 billion toward the 10-year cost of the health care overhaul sought by President Obama," CQ Politics reports. The fees would come on top of a variety of other potential provisions that will change the landscape of their industry, from the requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions to a government-run plan meant to compete with insurers. The fee may appear in a Finance Committee version of the reform plan that hasn't been released yet. That committee is responsible for finding ways to pay for the overhaul.
"But the industry said Wednesday that it would draw the line at contributing to the cost of an overhaul, setting the stage for a debate that could end with insurers fighting the effort," CQ reports. Senators say the industry stands to gain from millions of new customers created by expanding access, but an industry spokesman said "now is not the time to impose new fees on health care coverage that will make coverage less affordable" (Wayne and Armstrong, 7/16).
At a Democratic press conference, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said, "Every other industry is kicking in. For the insurance industry to stand aside is not fair," Bloomberg reports. The call for a direct contribution from insurers follows deals with drug makers and hospitals to cut billions from their earnings. Schumer said profits for leading insurance companies had leapt 428 percent between 2000 and 2007, gains that would make "oil executives blush." However, UnitedHealth and WellPoint, the two largest insurers, have both watched their net revenues slip this year (Litvan and Jensen, 7/16).
Reuters: Meanwhile, insurers have been discussing plans to expand coverage with lawmakers. "UnitedHealth Group is in 'constructive' talks with lawmakers about how to best care for underserved communities efficiently, its chief executive, Stephen Hemsley, said on Wednesday" (Bartz, 7/15).
National Public Radio: Major insurers also oppose the possible creation of a "public option." "We do not endorse a government-run health plan," Sam Nussbaum, chief medical officer for WellPoint, the nation's largest insurer, tells NPR. "We're talking about competition not on a level playing field They can basically set unit-cost reimbursement" (Inskeep, 7/15).