New power would regulate premiums

Gregory Warner Feb 22, 2010
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New power would regulate premiums

Gregory Warner Feb 22, 2010
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: After the year we’ve spent debating so-called “Obamacare,” the White House released its first actual proposal for health care reform this morning on the White House Web site. Joining us live from our health care desk at WHYY in Phialdelphia, Gregory Warner — hello.

Gregory Warner: Hello, Bill.

Radke: So I understand the president’s trying to merge different bills that we have heard about before. What is new and different about his plan?

Warner: Well we have a new acronym to learn: HIRA. It stands for the Health Insurance Rate Authority. And this would be a federal commission with the power to regulate insurance premiums. The idea is the commission could say no to a company that wanted to raise rates, like we saw with Anthem Blue Cross proposing premium increases of up to 39 percent.

Radke: Right, but Gregory, don’t the insurance companies say they raise premiums because the cost of health care is going up?

Warner: Well, the idea is this would force insurance companies to strike better deals with hospitals. I spoke to Catherine McLoughlin from Mathematica Policy Research:

Catherine McLoughlin: If they feel the pressure to keep costs down because they can’t pass it on to the consumer in a higher premium, they may be able to exercise some of their market power to negotiate better fees from the provider.

Radke: And Gregory, what about paying for all of this? What’s the president proposing?

Warner: Well you remember the Senate proposed a tax on cadillac plans meant to cut down on the really plush benefits plans that encourage overuse and drive up cost. The criticism was a lot of those plans aren’t so plush, they’re just plain ordinary plans in high-cost areas. So Obama would bring back that tax but lift the threshold of a cadillac plan to $27,500. Not surprising, at least one senior House Republican has already rejected the whole proposal. We’ll have wait til Thursday to see what happens at the bipartisan summit.

Radke: And we’ll talk to you about it then. Marketplace’s Gregory Warner, thank you.

Warner: Thank you.

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