House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned insurance companies on Thursday that health-care reform could cost the industry dearly through new fees, fewer regulatory protections and fresh competition from the federal government.
The blunt admonition echoed a round of harsh statements Wednesday from senior Senate Democrats, and came in response to the insurance’s lobby’s aggressive campaign to block reform legislation from advancing. An internal industry study released earlier this week found that the Senate reform bill would cause premiums to rise sharply, but the report’s findings have been widely disputed.
The tactic now appears to have backfired, as Democrats vow to redouble their efforts to crack down on insurer’s practices. Health-care negotiators are working behind closed doors to merge different pieces of legislation into separate bills that are expected to reach the House and Senate floors next month.
“It is absolutely clear that it is an unsustainable situation as we go forward, and it is well known to the public that the health insurance companies are the problem,” said Pelosi.
Pelosi said the House may adopt a Senate provision that would assess a flat fee on insurance companies that is expected to generate about $40 billion over 10 years, as a way to pay for its reform bill. She advocated House language that would require health-insurance companies to to spend 85 cents of every dollar they collect in premiums on benefits.