Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that several health insurers “plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul.”
Starting this year, Obamacare prohibits plans from placing lifetime limits on coverage, severely limits rescissions, and requires all plans to cover children up to age 26. Plans also have to fully cover preventive services and are prohibited from denying children due to pre-existing conditions. The list goes on. Since extra benefits cost more, it makes sense that insurance premiums would climb as a result of the new law. Insurers cited increases between 1 and 9 percent.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responded to the insurers’ claims in a letter to America’s Health Insurance Plans, where she wrote that “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases.”
What does she mean by “zero tolerance”? She doesn’t beat around the bush: “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.”
This threat by an Administration official against private industry is an example of the huge overstep of the federal government and threat to Americans’ liberty espoused by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). In a recent Heritage report, health policy expert John Hoff explores the ways in which the PPACA centralizes more power in Washington. Regarding the “unjustified” rate increases Sebelius berates, Hoff writes:
The Administration is required, beginning with plan year 2010, to put in place a process to identify “unreasonable” increases in premiums and to require the insurer to post a justification for the increase online before its implementation. This constitutes guilt by allegation. PPACA does not provide a process for the insurer to explain the reason for the increase before it is branded unreasonable. Nor does it provide any standard for what qualifies as unreasonable. After HHS has labeled an increase “unreasonable” it is too late for the insurance company to defend the increase. The insurer’s explanation at this point, which must involve complex economic facts, may not have much effect on consumers. The threat of labeling an increase “unreasonable” gives the Administration unchecked power to extract concessions from insurers and, thus, to control how they operate.
This isn’t the only way that the federal government will insert itself into every aspect of Americans’ health care. To read Hoff’s full analysis, click here.