Economists, Dems Differ On Who’s To Blame For Insurers’ Rate Hikes
Democrats assailed health insurers for hiking rates in recent weeks to gain popular momentum for their health overhaul, but health economists say insurers did not cause high health costs, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The economists "contend that insurance companies, while often meriting criticism for their practices, aren't to blame for high health care costs." Uwe Reinhardt, a Princeton University economist, said. "What really drives it is the cost trend of health care, which is composed in part of utilization and in part of prices. In our market-driven system, a doctor or hospital essentially charges the maximum they can get," he added (Boulton, 3/13).
Meanwhile Democrats continue to push the argument that insurers are responsible, The Portsmouth (N.H.) Herald reports. "United States Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said she sees the increases in the health insurance premiums of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Hampshire as emblematic of a disconnect between health insurance companies and rank-and-file Granite Staters - and all Americans, for that matter." In New Hampshire, hikes ranged from 12 to 13 percent for individual plans and 17 percent for group policies, far less than the biggest 39 percent increases in California (McDermott, 3/14).
One man who may have contributed to the anti-insurers narrative is Joel Ario, Pennsylvania's insurance commissioner and a leader of an organization of officials who serve in that function in other states, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "I've been working with the White House and Health and Human Services on messaging," Ario said. The Inquirer writes, "For health reform to work, Ario preaches, everyone must buy insurance, the government must help those who can't afford it, and insurance companies must end their most egregious practices" (Bergen, 3/14).