Arriving on Track One, ObamaCare Mandates; Arriving on Track Two, Heightened Premium Control
Last week, when insurers dared to point out to their customers that premiums will have to be raised so as to meet ObamaCare mandates, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius treated them to her best Edward G. Robinson.
It has come to my attention that several health insurer carriers are sending letters to their enrollees falsely blaming premium increases for 2011 on the patient protections in the Affordable Care Act. I urge you to inform your members that there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases. …
We will also keep track of insurers with a record of unjustified rate increases: those plans may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014.
You mugs are gonna shut up, see? Or we’ll cut you out of the action, see?
Meanwhile, back in little Rhody, Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller has sent out letters to the state’s major insurers informing them that past is no longer prologue and a piddly matter like an expansion of coverage is no longer an adequate reason to raise premiums without first getting permission … at least, not if it’s an expansion brought on by ObamaCare.
On Thursday, Koller wrote to the three plans’ presidents informing them that any surcharges attributed to the federal law still had to pass muster with his office. Koller said he learned of the planned increases from a reporter for the Providence Business News.
For plans that renew after Sept. 23, the federal law requires insurers to allow adult children up to age 26 to enroll in their parents’ policies. It also eliminates out-of-pocket payments for preventive services. Other mandates in the federal overhaul, such as a ban on excluding people with preexisting conditions, are already part of Rhode Island law.
In doing so, he is complying with an earlier directive from Edward G. Sebelius that states aggressively challenge all proposed rate increases.
Look, I don’t harbor any more warm feelings towards the health insurance industry than the next guy. And quite possibly, Commissioner Koller will approve this round of rate increases – or, anyway, allow an increase of up to 2%, as the HHS Secretary herself identified this as the outer limit of the “potential premium impact” of ObamaCare.
But suppose this projection proves overly optimistic? It’s the next rate increase necessitated by ObamaCare, and the one after, that is worrisome. Already, the president is backing away from initial representations about the cost curbing that “reform” would confer. As costs rise, it appears that states will deny any additional premium increases. What happens then?
All-encompassing health coverage for all is a nice idea … and an expensive one. Congress picked up fast on that first characteristic. It’s alarming that they haven’t yet figured out the second one.