Oct 02 2009
I very much regret that I am not a member of one of the Committees that has participated in the development of a bill. There is still no single healthcare reform proposal or plan. Three separate Committees in the House of Representatives have approved legislation, but the House has not adopted a bill.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has approved legislation which would expand healthcare coverage and improve public health, the healthcare workforce, and healthcare quality.
The Senate Finance Committee is in the process of marking up a bill that will be merged with the Senate HELP Committee bill. The Finance Committee proposal will be integral to this debate. The timing for a bill to reach the floor is unknown.
As I listen to the debate, hear from experts, and discuss concerns with people, I believe the main thrust of health reform must be insurance reform.
I find no rationale for the medical insurance industry to be the large profit center that it is. In the last 8 years, profits of publicly traded companies have increased by 428% (Health Care for America Now), while during approximately the same period of time, premiums have doubled. Just last week, a constituent said to me, “I just received a notice that my premiums are going up 20%.” This is a big problem. So how do we solve that problem?
Committees of jurisdiction are going to present bills that essentially regulate people, stating that you will need to pay a certain amount of your earnings on health care before receiving federal assistance. Some of the bills also contain mandates that require employers to provide coverage to their workers, or pay a fee. I believe that we ought to regulate the health insurance industry. I see no reason why insurance companies are not covered by anti-trust regulations.
I also see no reason why insurance companies are permitted to make high profits with administrative costs as high as 23%, and have high CEO salaries. Top executives at some of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies receive very generous compensation. In 2008,
- The CEO of Aetna received $8,454,558.
- The CEO of UnitedHealth received $9,474,880
- The CEO of Wellpoint received $4,088,589 (Source: The Corporate Library, CNN.com)
The medical insurance industry should not be like Wall Street. Health insurance has rapidly become a necessity of life. You cannot count on medical help without insurance unless you can fully pay for it, and costs are such that few can. Rather than have insurance companies focus on their bottom line and profits for their investors, health care plans must serve people.
I also believe that it makes no sense for each state to have its own insurance regulations. These walls should be knocked down, allowing companies to compete nationally in large pools. Insurance companies would be required to offer basic policies that meet the needs of the elderly, children, families, and individuals.
I believe that premiums should be regulated and there should be a national rate authority, made up of competent, independent individuals. It would be well-staffed, and have the authority to set premium rates, oversee and guarantee that companies follow new rules prohibiting discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, and serve as an appellate body when care is denied. In short, it would oversee the health insurance industry in America.
This likely will not happen in any bill that comes out of the Committees. I am concerned that bills they report out will be so big, and so complicated, with so many mandates and subsidies that it will be difficult to achieve these important goals.
Thank you for reading my news update.
For Senator Feinstein’s previous statements on health reform, please click here