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Monday, March 8, 2010

When will they say 'enough is enough?'

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

First, there were the highly publicized rate hikes in California. Then, the Department of Health and Human Services released a report detailing rate hikes in several more states. And then there was WellPoint, who joined the club last week by jacking up premiums in 11 states.

Doesn't it seem like we should have hit rock bottom by now? That insurance companies couldn't stoop any lower by continuing to increase their profits while gouging their customers? Well insurance companies in Illinois sure don't seem to think so. This week, they announced that they too would be raising premiums for Americans in the private market, who are often already in a financial bind.

According to the Chicago Tribune, customers in Illinois can expect a rise in premiums up to 60% in the private individual market.

These are people who have no option to buy anything except individual insurance. Due to the recession, they have either lost their job, or are purchasing insurance in the individual market because their employer has decided to drop coverage. They are paying the full cost of any increases in their premiums, because they do not get help from an employer to pay for their coverage. Any of us could end up in this situation.

The Tribune notes that the rise in premiums is just for base rates; rates that,

"do not take into consideration health status, gender, age, place of residence and length of a policy -all factors that could raise premiums further."

Health reform will hold insurance companies accountable by keeping them from dropping those who are sick, and from spending less on care, and hiking premiums while still maintaining high profits. Without reform, premiums will just continue to go up.

When will the opponents of health reform finally join the American people in saying "enough is enough"?

How many more rate hikes do they need as proof that costs are out of control, and insurance companies need to be held accountable? How many more Americans need to die because they don't have access to affordable health care?

We believe that we can't wait any longer -these outrageous rate hikes have got to go. And we need opponents of reform to stand with us, not with the insurance companies.

P.S. Families USA has a new report available about holding health insurance companies more accountable for your premium dollars. Click here to read it.