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

For Immediate Release

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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 - 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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