Congress to insurers: We're watching you

November 5, 2009

Regardless of whatever health reform makes its way out of Washington, it looks like Congress has its eyes on the insurance industry. Perhaps it was Cigna’s 93 percent profit jump in the third quarter?

Regardless of whatever health reform makes its way out of Washington, it looks like Congress has its eyes on the insurance industry. Perhaps it was Cigna’s 93 percent profit jump in the third quarter?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Cigna’s $329 million profit “stunning,” according to HealthLeaders Media. Similarly, Sen. Thomas Harkin on Wednesday brought up the insurance industry’s price increases to small businesses, citing a survey that showed average policies will increase 11 percent to 16 percent (and as much as 30 percent) annually in most states.

Harkin announced an investigation into the pricing practices of insurance companies that sell to small businesses. He also sent letters to the heads of Humana, UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, and Aetna asking for information about how they determined insurance rates for small businesses and the percentage of premiums spent on medical care.

The House bill does try to address insurer profits with an amendment to overturn a long-standing act that has antitrust exemptions for the industry, as well as provisions to limit high charges. Insurance companies would also be barred from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. Voting on the House bill (which the AMA, AARP, and MGMA have all thrown their support behind) is set to begin Saturday.