Senate Democrats Seek Legislation To Regulate Insurer Rate HikesThe New York Times: "Fearing that health insurance premiums may shoot up in the next few years, Senate Democrats laid a foundation on Tuesday for federal regulation of rates, four weeks after President Obama signed a law intended to rein in soaring health costs." Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation that would allow the federal health secretary to block "any rate increase found to be unreasonable," an authority that would be shared with some state insurance officials. But, officials in about half the states lack the power to do this, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who chairs the Senate health committee, said (Pear, 4/20).
Los Angeles Times: "The move, which comes less than a month after President Obama signed the healthcare legislation, is aimed at giving all states the power to stop premium hikes deemed excessive and allowing the federal government to step in if the states don't act." Insurers counter that such a move would not solve the problem of the rising cost of medical care. The top insurance industry lobbyist, Karen Ignagni, said "Health plan premiums are a symptom, not a cause of the problem" (Levey, 4/21).
Bloomberg News/Indianapolis Business Journal: The broader health legislation "signed by President Barack Obama in March requires the companies to explain any 'unreasonable' premium increases, though it doesn't regulate the insurers' decisions until 2014." Saying Democrats "should do more," Harkin said the his committee would take up the issue this year, but didn't offer a more specific timeframe. Insurers were concerned rejections of rate increases could mean they would be unable to pay for their promised benefits if revenues fall behind rising medical costs (4/20).
The (Tenn.) Chattanoogan: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a critic of the proposal, said during a health committee hearing, "Again, we are focusing on a tiny part of the problem, health care company profits, and ignoring the ... increasing costs of the health care delivery system which is breaking the backs of American families, American businesses and the American government" (4/20). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.