Congressmen Brian Bilbray and Darrell Issa recently toured a Carlsbad Toyota car dealership to “investigate” the Toyota faulty gas pedals that have been causing car crashes and deaths. But what about people who get into accidents and need health care or those faced with escalating premium costs?
About 2.5 million Californians have individual insurance plans. Recently, Well Point/Anthem Blue Cross announced a 25 to 39 percent insurance premium rate increase to California’s self-insured and self-employed members.
Why haven’t these congressmen lifted a finger to investigate the sudden rise in premiums?
Private insurance companies, immune from anti-trust laws, have held Americans hostage to health care premium increases. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that Wellpoint and its subsidiaries paid out more than $22,715,439 for lobbying with our health care premiums.
From 2000 to 2009, health insurance premiums for California’s workers rose an estimated 4.3 times the rate of wages. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, since 1999, family insurance premiums nationwide for employer-sponsored coverage rose 133 percent.
Anthem Blue Cross isn’t the only insurer to raise its premiums and hike deductibles. Aetna has increased rates for small group policies by 40 percent.
According to Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, “medical cost inflation in California is in the 10 to 15 percent range.”
So why the urgent sudden need for the large rate increases?
The answer is simple. Profit. In 2009, WellPoint’s profit was $4.7 billion, nearly twice as much as the company earned the year before. Health Care for America Now, or HCAN, reported the profits last year for the nation’s five largest health insurers — WellPoint, UnitedHealthGroup, Aetna, Humana and Cigna — increased by 56 percent.
Instead of grandstanding, both congressmen should be publicly investigating the health insurance industry and asking critical questions about the need for escalating premiums in recessionary times.
Tracy Emblem is an attorney and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, California’s 50th District.