Washington D.C. — The nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) said that Senator Michael Enzi’s ‘association health plan’ legislation is designed to increase insurance company profits and market control, not small business health care affordability.
By removing state health coverage requirements — like guaranteed access to OB/GYNs for women, cancer screenings, and independent medical reviews when insurers deny access to necessary care — Senator Enzi’s bill, S. 1955, gives insurers more power to raise rates and increase profits by selling junk policies to patients and small business owners.
“Senator Enzi should ask himself whether he can look that small business owner, that dry cleaner, in the eye after the Senator gives him an insurance policy that purports to cover his family but leaves him with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills when he gets sick,” said Jerry Flanagan of FTCR. “The principle behind the Enzi bill is ‘in insurers we trust.’ The only difference between this and past versions of the ‘association health plan’ legislation is that the Enzi bill allows every insurer or HMO to sell junk policies to any American.”
Dana Christensen of Playa Del Rey California traveled to Washington D.C. this week to oppose Enzi’s proposal because her association health plan left her with $450,000 in medical bills when her husband died of bone cancer. For more information about Dana Christensen visit: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/healthcare/AHP/
- WellPoint, the nation’s largest insurer, said that it’s profit tripled in the 4th quarter of 2005 and announced another 20% profit increase in the 1st quarter of 2006
- UnitedHealth, the nation’s second largest health insurer, announced an 18% profit increase in the 4th quarter of 2005 and a 21% profit increase for the 1st quarter of 2006.
- Aetna, the nation’s third largest health insurer, announced a 41% profit increase in the 4th quarter of 2005.
“HMOs and health insurers have plundered health care and held patients ransom for far too long,” said Jerry Flanagan, Health Care Policy Director for the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). “Mergers and acquisitions have given a handful of insurers a stranglehold over the health insurance market. Patients and small businesses need more protections, not less.”
MERGERS & CONSOLIDATION
FTCR said that S. 1955 will give insurers even more power to raise prices and sell junk policies.
In the last decade there have been more than 400 mergers of managed care companies. Now just 5 companies — WellPoint, United Health, Aetna, Cigna, and Humana — account for more than half of the entire U.S. health insurance market. A recent study found that, in over half the local markets surveyed, just one insurer provides health care to more than 50% of those with insurance.
By removing state-required coverage mandates and affordability protections, insurers will be able raise rates and sell less protective policies.
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights cited recent figures released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that show that health insurance overhead costs — including profit, advertising, and administration — are now the fastest growing component of health care spending. Nothing in S. 1955 addresses this waste of patient premiums.
According to a Harvard Medical School study, in 2005 medical bills were responsible for half of all bankruptcies. Of the approximately one million Americans who file for bankruptcy each year as a result of illness, most have college degrees, work full-time, and own their homes. Three-quarters already have insurance.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is the nation’s leading non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy group. For more information, please visit us on-line at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org