NEW YORK—Representative Anthony Weiner called on the New York State Insurance Department to cap the health insurance rate increase premium on Sunday, October 3, at City Hall. A trend of unreasonably high rate increases has been noted as the department has begun to receive health insurance companies' applications for approval of next year's charges, said the congressman.
“Perhaps, more so, even more than recent years, the health insurance industry is really showing no end to their greed,” Weiner said. “According to data that we’ve seen up to today, the increases are up to 19 percent, and all the applications aren’t even in yet.”
There are still two weeks left before health insurance applications' deadline. The highest rate increase requested thus far has been 19 percent from HealthNow New York, Inc. The average requested rate increase is not far behind at 15.75 percent.
Weiner said that the state now has the authority to counter the high rate increases. A law passed in June gives the Commissioner of the State Insurance Department the power to put a cap on the rate increases.
“We’re seeing that … inflation is zero and real wages are growing hardly at all,” said the congressman. “The health insurance industry is showing that they are prepared to gouge New Yorkers even more—but they’re in for a surprise. According to a new state law, the State Insurance Department now has increased power to say to insurance companies, ‘No, you can’t raise rates as much as you want.’”
In August, under the new health reform law, the state of New York was also granted one million dollars in federal funds to investigate the rate increases and keep the costs down.
Weiner said that insurance companies have put a lot of effort into blaming the new health care reform law as the cause for the rate increases, but their claims may not be accurate.
“The only problem with that [blaming health care reform] is that the only changes that have gone into effect so far are [the] ones that actually save them money,” noted the congressman. “Because of an increased focus on diagnostic and preventative care and because of the increased number of younger people on their roll, meaning those up to 26 years [of age], … their expenses are actually lower than they’ve been in past years.”
“It really should come as no surprise—in many ways these rises in insurance rates [are] exactly why the health care reform bill was passed last year,” Weiner said. “We need to introduce more competition and more choice to these insurance carriers, so [that they] can’t keep raising prices. Only two industries in America aren’t covered under the antitrust law—one is baseball and the other is the insurance industry. And you can see that lack of competition has led to rates going up.”