Earlier this month, after health insurers across the country announced that the early health care benefits were forcing them to increase premiums by up to 9 percentage points, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote a letter to the industry arguing that “any potential premium impact from the new consumer protections and increased quality provisions under the Affordable Care Act will be minimal” and pointed to actuary estimates which found that the early consumer protections would result in marginal increases. “I want AHIP’s members to be put on notice: the Administration, in partnership with states, will not tolerate unjustified rate hikes in the name of consumer protections,” Sebelius said.
This morning, speaking at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., Newt Gingrich likened Sebelius’ letter to “Soviet tyranny” and said that a Republican-controlled House should ask for her resignation and defund her office in the Department of Health and Human Services:
GINGRICH: When Secretary Sebelius said the other day she would punish insurance companies that told the truth about the cost of Obamacare, she was behaving exactly in the spirit of the Soviet tyranny. And if she’s going to represent left-wing thought police about Obamacare, she should be forced to resign by the new Congress.
This idea that we the people have to tolerate some bureaucrat being paid with our taxes to dictate free speech to us should end in January by the Republican Congress zeroing out her office and explaining that they would be glad to pay for it when someone is there who recognizes the rights of the American people.
But telling Americans that extending dependent coverage to 26 year olds and ending annual limits will increase premiums by 9 percentage is just not true — and insurers know it. While there may be some justification in raising rates in response to rising health care inflation, substantiating an increase that comes in the context of record profits and a long history of issuers fudging the numbers to extract maximum increases is difficult. In fact, it was just four months ago that independent analysts in California discovered that WellPoint “overstated future medical costs” to justify its 39% premium increases in the individual health market and committed numerous other methodological errors.
Gingrich, however, is willing to put full trust in the insurance industry’s accounting practices, to the point where any review of those methods — the very same kind of review that discovered past errors — is tantamount to “Soviet” tactics.