Sunday, December 6, 2009
Health insurance premiums rise as Congress debates reform
posted by Shawn Gao
Wrangling in Congress over health care reform hasn't succeeded in curbing the double-digit increases many Utah employers and workers will face for health insurance next year as open-enrollment season rolls around.
One explanation is that insurance companies and customers usually agree on the terms and conditions of health insurance plans at least 90 days before they go into effect. The House passed its reform bill Nov. 7, more than a month after most employers had signed contracts for 2010, and the Senate vote is weeks away.
Another reason is nobody knows which bill may emerge from the Senate and how it will be resolved with the House bill before a final measure goes to President Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, health care costs are still surging. And at the state level, where insurance companies are regulated, officials are waiting for Congress to act before they press for reforms.
"I don't think that health reform is really a driving force in how these negotiations [between employers and insurance companies] are playing out right now," said Kathleen Stoll, director of health policy at the nonpartisan advocacy organization Families USA.
As Congress continues to debate, premiums show no sign of reaching a plateau, forcing more businesses to pare back benefits or cancel them altogether.
"The trend for  is still up," said Candace Daly, Utah director of the National Federation of Independent Business. Many of the group's 4,000