Obama Gets Tough on Insurers, Releases New Regs

New rules are aimed at curbing outsized health insurance premium increases.

ByABC News
June 23, 2010, 8:24 AM

June 23, 2010— -- WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warned insurance companies not to impose outsize premium increases while healthcare reform is being implemented.

"They shouldn't see it as an opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases that don't boost care and inflate their bottom line," the president said in a Tuesday afternoon speech from the White House.

Obama spoke following a meeting with Sebelius, White House officials, state insurance commissioners, and insurance company executives.

In a call with reporters, Sebelius said she is urging state insurance commissioners to investigate suspicious premium increases and said the federal government is also monitoring such increases.

"We wanted to caution insurance companies that rate increases would be watched very closely," Sebelius said, adding that insurance commissioners are very receptive to performing rate reviews in their states.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, also known as the healthcare reform law) doesn't give the federal government explicit authority over the rates that insurance companies charge.

Tuesday's meeting comes a day after the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of a survey that found people who buy health insurance on their own experienced, on average, a 20 percent increase in the cost of their premiums over the past year.

"There is no question that we're seeing rate increases that are way above inflation and those are hard to justify," Sebelius said.

Seven state insurance commissioners; Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans; and executives from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, WellPoint, Kaiser Permanente, Cigna, and Humana were listed on the White House meeting roster.