Health Insurers Confronted by White House

Health insurance chief executives were summoned to the White House on Thursday to ask them to justify sharp premium increases. The confrontation was due in part to a campaign by the White House to build support for the health overhaul.

Insurers on the Hot Seat

Insurance companies are on the hot seat as the White House tries to determine why companies like Anthem Blue Cross have tried to increase premiums as high as 39 percent.During the meeting, President Barack Obama andHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requested that insurers justify the increased health insurance rates.

Some of the insurers said that drug makers, hospitals, medical-device makers and other health-care companies are driving up the underlying cost of medical care. They noted that any attempts to lower health coverage premiums without addressing the costs coming from the outside would be destined to fail.

Accountability In Order

After hearing the insurers’ explanations, Sebelius asked the companies to begin posting information online for consumers that explains how much of their revenue goes toward administrative costs, marketing and actual care. She wanted the insurance companies to list other details of their rate increases as well that would make the action more transparent.

Some company heads said they were open to the idea, but none openly committed to posting the information for the public since it is already in detailed filings to state insurance regulators, and according to them, is difficult to access.

The Health Overhaul’s Progress

When Obama met with House Democrats Thursday, the idea was to begin his last round of lobbying. However, there were still debates on what should bea part of the overhaul – the biggest being should there be a public health insurance plan available to compete with private insurers.

Additionally, some House liberals, like Dennis Kucinich, felt that the current overhaul pitch won’t do enough to control the rapidly increasing health coverage premiums.

With so much to debate regarding the health overhaul, it’s difficult to know whether a final bill will reach Obama’s desk by his ambitious deadline, which at this point is in the next few weeks.