Insurance Premium Price Changesby Representative Jim McDermott
Posted on 2013-02-27
McDERMOTT. Madam Speaker, I rise to talk about the health
insurance industry and its role in our greatest national achievement:
full implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
In the last few weeks, insurance companies, companies that reported $12.7 billion in profits, had been running a scare campaign arguing that premiums will increase later in the year. They tell us that when they roll out their 2014 health care coverage plans, they will increase premiums unless we weaken the Affordable Care Act's key consumer protections.
The insurance companies didn't get 100 percent of what they wanted, but they got a lot. They blocked the public option, secured an individual mandate guaranteeing that 30 million Americans soon will be customers. That's one [[Page H665]] of the most successful lobbying experiments I've ever seen.
But now that we are just a few months away from full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the health industry is launching what The Washington Post calls ``an all-out, last-ditch effort to shield themselves from the blame'' for the rate increases that they will impose. Unless they are allowed to charge significantly more money, they tell us, the whole system will collapse.
Now, this is perplexing. We made every effort to address the concerns of the industry when we developed this landmark legislation. It's also deeply troubling that the industry that will gain so much from health reform is now engaging in a misleading PR campaign against it. Despite unprecedented profits and surplus cash reserves, it is deliberately undermining the law. It already succeeded in shaping its benefits.
So let's take a careful look at their claims. For years, companies have offered healthy young adults junk health insurance at cut-rate prices: plans with sky-high deductibles and lifetime limits that didn't cover much. For $100 a month, you could get a plan that offered practically no useful coverage.
Meanwhile, older people with escalating health care costs were stuck with crippling bills or locked out of the market altogether. Across the board, plans dropped consumers, coverage changed without warning, and people of all ages went without care. ObamaCare will finally put a stop to these abuses.
With better plans with real benefits costs, more than the meager plans marketed by the industry to young people, the stability and affordability will win out in the long run. There are no more games. Instead of avoiding risk, the industry will have to manage it.
ObamaCare will financially help the large majority of healthy young consumers. In fact, 90 percent of the currently uninsured adults under 30 will be eligible for subsidized coverage. Additionally, increased transparency and competition will force rates to drop further, along with the growing pool of young participants who are cheaper to cover. We did all this in my home State of Washington years ago, so I know it can be done.
For the first time, average Americans not insured through a job will get health insurance without having insurance that won't drop you when you're sick, insurance that won't discriminate against women, insurance that won't waste your money on excessive marketing, and will actually cover needed care. These are the crucial consumer protections we fought and got.
Which is the heavier price: an extra $20 a month for a young person with a healthy income to have reliable insurance or bankrupting an uninsured family? Meeting the needs of the Nation and preserving the well-being of our population is healthiest for all.
So I'm calling on the health insurance industry to be team players and to be good corporate citizens. They have a lot riding on this roll- out, at least as much as the Obama administration and the Congress. We need to work together, not against each other. We have to make this advance work.
We don't need to have a scare campaign on television telling people that if ObamaCare goes in, your premiums are going to go up, and it's his fault. They're the ones with the profits, they're the ones with the reserves, they're the ones that are raising the prices.
They have to be faced with that, Madam Speaker, because otherwise the public is going to be confused. They tried to confuse people all through the establishment of the Affordable Care Act. They didn't succeed. And, in fact, when they used it in the campaign, the people said, do you know what, we like Obama, we like what he did, we want it to happen. So the insurance companies had to go back to the trenches and figure out a way to confuse the American people. Stop it, insurance industry.