Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Consumer Watchdog to Pelosi: Push for Health Insurance Industry Oversight

/PRNewswire/ -- In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today, Consumer Watchdog called for strengthened oversight of the health insurance industry and greater affordability protections for consumers in negotiations with the U.S. Senate on final health reform legislation.

In the letter, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

"With the public option apparently off the table, thanks to a single Senator allied with the insurance industry, it is more important than ever for the House to insist on comprehensive regulation of the industry to ensure affordability and accountability for Americans who will now be required to buy private insurance."

Download the letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/PelosiLetter.pdf

Consumer Watchdog called on Pelosi to make eight affordability and accountability changes to the health reform legislation before it is sent to President Obama:

1. Rate regulation. The House and Senate legislation require every American to buy coverage under threat of tax fines, yet both bills fail to regulate insurer premium increases.

2. Fully defined benefits. The "essential health benefits" called for under the mandated insurance policies in the House and Senate bills are left undefined in the legislation.

3. Preserve superior state patient protections. The Senate bill's new "multi-state" plans and the House and Senate bill's interstate "compacts" allow insurance companies to override more protective state patient laws.

4. Legal accountability for all health insurance providers. The House and Senate bills provide no legal accountability for insurers when employers pay for health coverage.

5. Employer fair-share payments. The weak employer penalties of the Senate bill would create financial incentives for employers to drop coverage, pushing workers into state exchanges where they would be forced to buy individual policies that offer less care for more money.

6. Better plan value. The Senate bill has lowered the overall value of the cheapest "bronze" plan to below that of almost any current employer-sponsored plan, which will result in individuals and families bearing more of the cost of coverage.

7. Tougher ban on policy rescissions. The Senate bill allows insurers to game its rescission ban.

8. No annual coverage limits. The Senate bill allows insurers to place "reasonable" annual limits on insurance policy coverage.

The group also called on Pelosi to support changes to Senate filibuster rules to provide that legislation may be approved without a 60-vote supermajority at every major step. Consumer Watchdog wrote:

"Real health care reform and the coming climate change legislation are too important to be held hostage by one lawmaker with parochial, personal or industry-allied motives, be it Joe Lieberman, Kent Conrad or Ben Nelson."

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