Dust-up over healthcare reform ahead of Senate panel’s vote
The fragile consensus in favor of healthcare reform may be coming apart.
With the Senate Finance Committee due to vote on its reform bill Tuesday, the insurance industry’s trade group released an analysis saying the measure would drive up costs by thousands of dollars over the next decade.
The White House quickly fired back.
“It comes on the eve of a vote that will reduce the industry’s profits. It is hard to take it seriously,” he said.
The analysis commissioned by America’s Health Insurance Plans says insurance premiums under the Finance Committee plan would rise even faster than if the United States did nothing to reform its $2.5 trillion healthcare system, the costliest in the world.
The report, produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers, said the average insurance premium for a family of four is $12,300 today and would rise to $21,900 by 2019 if nothing is done.
If measures in the Senate Finance Committee bill become law, the cost of premiums for the same family would rise to $25,900, the analysis says.
The reason for the higher costs is that the mandate for purchasing insurance is too weak and many young, healthy people will decide not to buy insurance, the analysis says.
Plus, the cost of the taxes on high-cost insurance plans and on some sectors of the health care industry would be passed directly on to the consumer, it says.
“The overall impact of these provisions will be to increase the cost of private insurance coverage for individuals, families and businesses above what these costs would be in the absence of reform,” the analysis says.
A spokesman for Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus rejected the analysis, calling it “a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple.”
“This report is untrue, disingenuous and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long,” said Baucus spokesman Scott Mulhauser.
Groups fighting for healthcare reform also reacted angrily.
“This is a transparent attempt by the health insurance industry to sabotage reform,” said Richard Kirsch of the Health Care for America Now.
“They’re out to protect their money and their power and they’ll go to any lengths — including circulating fake information — to stop real change,” he said.
But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell cautioned against rejecting the analysis out of hand.
“Higher premiums, higher taxes, and more government — that’s not reform,” he said, calling the plan a “$1 trillion experiment that cuts Medicare, raises taxes and premiums and threatens the healthcare options that millions of Americans enjoy.”
Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young (Max Baucus after a healthcare reform meeting Sept. 14); Reuters/Richard Clement (Baucus, Senator Jim Bunning discuss healthcare amendments Oct. 1)