Crying Wolf

Written with Robert McEwen
stethoscopeThis week marks the three month anniversary of the passage of the health care reform bill. In just that short time we have already seen positive changes. Parents can keep their children on their family coverage until age 26, seniors have begun receiving checks to help them fill the donut hole that occurs in their Medicare Part D coverage, a new web portal is going to be launched on July 1st to help families and small businesses figure out what coverage might be available to them in Nebraska right now, and a new high risk insurance pool will also be launched on July 1st which will provide coverage to some uninsured Nebraskans.

Unfortunately, before many other health reforms take effect, the health insurers are taking the opportunity to raise premiums even while they enjoy record profits. The insurance industry is crying wolf and blaming the premium increase on healthcare reform, but Health Care for America Now (HCAN) released a report earlier this week which provides information to the contrary. First, premium increases are generally set in the fall, long before the health reform bill was even passed. In fact, health care reform wasn’t passed until the end of the first quarter of 2010 when insurers has already seen an increase in profits of 31% over the first quarter in 2009. Second, 2009 was a also a record profit year for most of the major insurers while most spent less on paying actual medical claims. What were the premium increases for if profits are high and insurers are using less and less of people’s hard earned premium dollars on actual medical care?

The claims that insurance rates are going up because of health reform don’t hold water. In fact, the health care reform law will do more to reign in the troubling practices of insurance companies.

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