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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2009
3:58 PM

CONTACT: CNA/NNOC

Charles Idelson, 415-559-8991 or 510-273-2246

Nurses Blast Latest Price Gouging Threat by Insurance Giants, "Massive Public Bailout Apparently Not Enough"

WASHINGTON - October 12 - The nation's largest organization of registered nurses today condemned the latest campaign by the insurance industry, threatening massive increases in premium rates if it does not get its way on the healthcare bills currently before Congress.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurance industry trade lobby, Sunday released a report it commissioned, warning average family premiums will go up to $21,300 if the Senate Finance Committee bill is adopted. 

"This is an outrageous threat by one of the richest industries in America," said Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the 86,000-member California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee.

"Our legislators should respond to this bullying and stop coddling a useless industry whose sole function is to make enormous profits from the pain and suffering of patients while providing little in return," said DeMoro.

Despite numerous aspects of the proposed legislation that prompted BusinessWeek in August to feature a cover story headlined "Health Reform: Why Insurers Are Winning," AHIP is now protesting it is not getting enough following amendments in the Senate Finance Committee reducing penalties for those who fail to buy private insurance.

Overall, the Finance Committee bill in particular will "still constitute a stunning, massive bailout for the insurance industry," said DeMoro. Components of that bailout include:

  • The individual mandate requiring all those without coverage to buy private insurance; even if the penalty is reduced, still worth tens of millions of new paying customers.
  • Subsidies for moderate income people to buy insurance.
  • No meaningful price controls on what insurers can charge in premiums, co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance and other fees. 
  • No meaningful reforms on insurance denials of care recommended by doctors that the insurers don't want to pay for. 

"It's long past time for our elected leaders in Congress and the Obama administration to acknowledge that the problem today is not a public option, it's the private option. The private insurers are at the heart of everything that is wrong with our present system and why it is failing in access, cost and quality."

  • Insurance premiums over the past decade have already gone up 138 percent, 3.5 times higher than family incomes. In addition, insurance deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance have been skyrocketing, to thousands of dollars a year for families, especially those with the cheaper insurance plans. 
  • Six of California's largest insurers reject on annual average nearly one-fourth of all payment claims, according to a report last month by CNA/NNOC. The state attorney general is currently investigating. Refusal to pay claims or delays in payment results in increased revenues for the insurance giants.
  • The top 18 health insurance firms made $15.9 billion in profits last year.

Among the consequences -

  • The number of uninsured is up to 46 million; millions more are under-insured (people with limited plans that leave them vulnerable in the event of unexpected health emergencies). 
  • More employers are shifting costs to employees, or dropping coverage entirely. 
  • Medical bills are now the principle factor in 62 percent of personal bankruptcies. 
  • More than half of Americans, the majority of them people with insurance, are skipping needed care due to high out-of-pocket costs.

The best way to respond to this crisis, said DeMoro, "is to remove the obstructionist and interfering role of the insurance industry entirely by expanding and updating Medicare to cover everyone."

The House is expected to vote on a Medicare for all amendment this month by Rep. Anthony Weiner. CNA/NNOC is urging all legislators to support it.

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National Nurses United, with close to 185,000 members in every state, is the largest union and professional association of registered nurses in US history.



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