Obama asks health insurers to post reasons for rate increases online

The Sacramento BeeMarch 5, 2010 

Amid consumer furor over rising health insurance premiums, the Obama administration asked insurers on Thursday to post rate increases — and the justification for them — on the Internet.

Also on Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced legislation that would give the federal government authority to reject rate increases that insurance companies cannot justify.

The developments come as President Barack Obama intensifies his push for legislation to overhaul the country's health care system, with escalating premiums his central talking point.

Posting rate increases online would "shine a bright light" on how premiums are set, said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

She met Thursday with the top executives of the country's largest health insurance firms, including the CEO of WellPoint, whose California subsidiary, Anthem Blue Cross, recently triggered a political firestorm when it raised rates by as much as 39 percent for thousands of customers.

"I'm hoping that the CEOs respond to the call for putting their information up in public," Sebelius said. "At the very least, they owe it to consumers to justify why the rates are sky high," Sebelius told reporters after her meeting with insurers and insurance commissioners from four states.

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