How much should rising insurance premiums be attributed to profits, and how much blame does the industry deserve?
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius continues to attack insurance carriers, while Karen Ignagni, the president of America's Health Insurance Plans, says the problem is a much deeper reflection of unsustainably high costs throughout the health care system.
Who's right? To what do you attribute these premium increases, and what's the answer?
Sebelius this morning faced off with Ignagni at the group's Washington meeting. Sebelius claimed she wasn't there to "vilify or blame insurance companies for all of the nation's health care problems," although her criticisms of the industry were severe. And Ignagni said her group would get back to Sebelius shortly with proposals to improve health reform legislation. Although the two were cordial to each other, the tone was very serious.
After Sebelius' remarks, Ignagni said her group would address several cost-related issues in its recommendations, including making sure that reform bills have more than "de minimus" penalties for failure to purchase policies, which she said would lead to an expensive market of mostly sick people. She said the industry also has ideas about rating bands. In addition, Ignagni wanted to discourage "Medicare cuts." Most academics, she said, are "realizing that the consolidation of the market is making it difficult to negotiate rates." She also wants to see proposals for pilot projects expanded to involve everyone. She added: "We need a failsafe, certification that if costs go up more than expected [in any part of the health care industry], something is done."