Health Inc.

Administration Escalates Attacks On Health Insurers' Rates

Get ready, health insurers, the Obama administration is coming after you again.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is expected to blast insurers over big proposed rate hikes in a half-dozen states at a media briefing this morning. It's a broadening of the administration's campaign to stoke support for another try at health overhaul by pointing the finger at insurers.

The occasion is an administration report that rounds up insurers' recent attempts to raise premiums on individual insurance policies around the country.

Health insurers, the report says, "claim that the premium increases are necessary given the rise in health care costs." And health costs certainly are rising. But, "some of the premium increases requested by insurance companies are 5 to 10 times larger than the growth rate in national health expenditures," the report asserts.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, for instance, got state approval to hike rates on individual policies an average of 22 percent last year after first asking for hikes as high as 56 percent.

Elsewhere, state regulators have rejected some requested rate hikes, including Anthem of Connecticut's 24 percent increase and Anthem of Maine's 18.5 percent premium rise.

Earlier this month, Obama and Sebelius kicked off the campaign by ripping Anthem Blue Cross of California for a rate increase of as much as 39 percent on individual policies in the state.

Since then the California insurer has agreed to delay the increase for two months and is fielding a range of investigations.

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