Premiums fuel health care overhaul

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: The Senate Finance Committee takes up a health care overhaul bill today. Meanwhile, the Obama administration is keeping up its push for reform, with a new report about rising insurance premiums.

Reporter Tamara Keith joins us live from Washington -- good morning.

Tamara Keith: Good morning, Bill.

Radke: What does the report say?

Keith: It says insurance premiums are rising faster than wages and faster than inflation, and that the rate of increase depends on what state you're in. Over the last 10 years, it says premiums rose 145 percent in Alasak and just 88 percent in Michigan, which is a big difference. Vice President Joe Biden will be talking about this today at a meeting of state insurance commissioners.

Radke: And how does the insurance industry respond this morning?

Keith: Well they say that they agree with the administration, that these rising premiums prove that some sort of health care overhaul is needed. Of course, they probably don't agree on exactly what kind of overhaul is needed. But the companies say that premiums are simply rising in tandum with the underlying cost of health care.

Radke: So as for the Senate Finance health care bill we mentioned, Tamara, I hear there are a couple of amendments?

Keith: Haha, just a few, as in 564. That's how many amendments the various committee members have suggested. Of course, not all of them will make it in, and Senator Baucus, the chairman of the committee, has already agreed to some changes. He said he will boost the subsidies to low and middle-income people who can't afford to buy insurance without the subsidies, and he's also planning to reduce the penalty for people who can't afford to or don't want to carry insurance.

Radke: Tamara Keith, reporting live from Washington. Thank you.

Keith: Not a problem!

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