Labor Chief Asks For Probe Into Health Insurance Lobbying
The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones reports: "AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Thursday urged some state insurance commissioners to investigate how the costs of insurers' lobbying to defeat health-insurance reform are affecting premiums."
"'We believe that health insurance providers' lobbying expenditures have led to excessive rate hikes,' Trumka wrote to regulators in Connecticut, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania. Laws in those states require insurance regulators to approve rate changes. Two of the four top insurance companies, WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Cigna Corp. (CI), are based in Indiana and Pennsylvania, respectively. The AFL-CIO leader also pointed to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has requested a rate hike of up to 30% in Connecticut while spending more than $9.5 million on lobbying, and UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), which recently proposed a premium increase for its Medicare supplemental insurance while spending more than $2.6 million on lobbying in the first half of 2009."
"In addition, Trumka asked regulators to investigate allegations that UnitedHealth and Anthem/WellPoint forced employees to attend meetings intended to pressure them into helping their employers oppose pending health insurance reform legislation. ... The health-care industry is the biggest-spending lobbying force in Washington. In the second quarter, health-care players spent $133 million pressing their interests, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics" (Shwiff, 9/24).
CBS News reports: "The letter is the latest move from labor unions and other pro-health reform groups that are targeting insurance companies, claiming the industry reaps excessive profits from undue influence in Washington and a lack of competition in the marketplace. ... The AFL-CIO joined with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and liberal groups Health Care for America Now, Move.org and others to hold rallies around the country on Tuesday outside of health insurance companies' headquarters and offices. Among other places, they targeted Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Conn.; Blue Cross Blue Shield in Bismarck, N.D.; and Anthem Blue Cross in San Francisco, Calif" (Condon, 9/24).