AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Thursday urged some state insurance commissioners to investigate how the costs of insurers’ lobbying to defeat health-insurance reform are affecting premiums.
“We believe that health insurance providers’ lobbying expenditures have led to excessive rate hikes,” Trumka wrote to regulators in Connecticut, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania. Laws in those states require insurance regulators to approve rate changes. Two of the four top insurance companies, WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Cigna Corp. (CI), are based in Indiana and Pennsylvania, respectively.
The AFL-CIO leader also pointed to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has requested a rate hike of up to 30% in Connecticut while spending more than $9.5 million on lobbying, and UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH), which recently proposed a premium increase for its Medicare supplemental insurance while spending more than $2.6 million on lobbying in the first half of 2009.
In addition, Trumka asked regulators to investigate allegations that UnitedHealth and Anthem/WellPoint forced employees to attend meetings intended to pressure them into helping their employers oppose pending health insurance reform legislation.
According to the AFL-CIO – which is supporting the Obama administration’s efforts – premiums for employer-based health insurance more than doubled in the past decade while the health-care industry spent more than $3.5 billion on lobbying.
The health-care industry is the biggest-spending lobbying force in Washington. In the second quarter, health-care players spent $133 million pressing their interests, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Labor unions and others with a stake in the health-care debate also are lobbying heavily
Insurance companies have been lobbying Congress to defeat the inclusion in health-care reform bills of a “public option” that would provide health insurance at lower costs than is now available. Groups of all stripes are blitzing lawmakers to shape a trillion-dollar health-care overhaul that would reach into every business and home in the country.
If the insurance industry gets the rate increase that would indicate the premium payers will be offsetting the lobbying costs of the health insurance industry. They sure donât want to pay for the lobbying costs out of their profits.