When insurance company profits are threatened, insurers threaten America

Every time someone makes a serious threat to rein in the insurance companies and their record-breaking profits, the insurance companies turn around and threaten America.

We saw it with the public option, with insurers saying as far back as a year and a half ago that a public health insurance option competing with private insurance would drive them out of businesses and thus take away the health care millions of Americans rely on.

And we saw this again when, of all things, the bill the Finance Committee passed, with the insurance industry releasing a much-discredited report essentially threatening to raise rates if health reform passed.

And now, with the President’s proposal of a central rate authority to examine and stop outrageous rate increases of up to 39% like we’ve seen recently in California and a bunch of other states, the insurers are once again threatening America with poverty and sickness:

A plan released Monday by the White House would give the federal government the power to regulate health insurers like a public utility. The Health and Human Services Department — in conjunction with state authorities — would be able to deny substantial premium increases, limit them or demand rebates for consumers.

But the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association warned against separating premium reviews from those that state regulators conduct to make certain health insurers have enough money to pay claims. Such a separation could lead to “multi-plan insolvencies,” the association said in a statement.

“That means claims do not get paid,” spokesman Jeff Smokler said.

BMO Capital Markets analyst Dave Shove, who follows the insurance industry, said he doubts a federal rate review would push health plans into insolvency. But he said many details remain to be resolved, and a federal regulator might motivate insurers to stop selling individual policies in some markets.

Now remember, insurance companies made record profits last year. The insurance industry is basically saying, “Give us our profits, or else!”

Compare that to what will happen if reform passes and passes right. In just one aspect, a new report from Health Care for America Now estimates states will receive billions in new money to help expand health care coverage to millions, and this will result in the states spending $85 billion less on health care because the federal government will be helping them out so much more. This will free up state funds for things like jobs and roads and schools, also desperately needed in this country.

As of today, Republicans have yet to present a plan they’ll bring to the summit on Thursday. They’re aiding the insurance companies, who want to be able to continue to threaten our lives and livelihood.

It’s crucial we finish health reform right. We need to give to the people the power to hold these insurance companies in check and force them to compete. They can’t be allowed to threaten us anymore.