Health Insurance Companies Under Fire from Democrats

Waxman health insurance
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Several dozen health insurance companies across the nation received letters today from Democrats asking them to divulge financial information. The letters were sent by House Energy and Commerce panel Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

A total of 52 letters were sent to health insurance companies that take in $2 billion or more in annual premiums. The letter asks health insurance executives to reveal information regarding compensation of any employee who earned more than $500,000 in any year from 2003 to 2008. It also requests documents on the company’s income from premiums and claims payments, and information on expenses related to events the company held outside of its facilities during the past 30 months.

The health insurance companies are not legally bound to provide the information. Democrats have asked to see most of the information by September 4, with the rest to follow by September 14. Companies that refuse to respond to the request, however, could be presented with a subpoena after a vote by the Committee.

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Among the list of health insurance companies to receive the letter are those many Americans will recognize: Aetna, Aflac Inc., Amerigroup Group, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of several states (including Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Louisiana, South Carolina, and others), Guardian Life Group, Highmark Inc., Humana Inc., Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, United Health Group, and WellPoint, Inc. A complete list of companies, as well as a copy of the letter, can be seen on the Committee on Energy and Commerce website (http://energycommerce.house.gov/).

According to the Associated Press, Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesperson for the American Health Insurance Plans, said that the Democrats want to “silence the health insurance industry and distract attention away from the fact that the American people are rejecting a government-run plan.” He also noted that “There has been an effort in recent weeks to shift the debate to focus on the health insurance industry rather than solutions on health care.”

At this point, it is not known whether health insurance company executives may be asked to come to Washington to answer questions, especially if they refuse to respond to the letters.

SOURCES:
Associated Press 8/19/09
Committee on Energy and Commerce website
Washington Post 8/19/09

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