This morning, while defending Sen. Mike Enzi’s (R-WY) resolution to eliminate regulations that would dissuade insurers and employers from shifting costs to plan beneficiaries, Republicans proudly regurgitated insurance industry talking points about premium increases and unfair mandates. Without probing the reasons behind the new premium requests, Republicans simply bought the insurers’ explanation that the health care law was primarily responsible for the recent increases and criticized the administration’s efforts to review their rates. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) even accused the HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — who asked the industry to stop misattributing the hikes to the law — of creating an “enemies list” of insurers and gagging the industry’s free speech rights:
ROBERTS: [Sebelius] is threatening to shut down private companies for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech and she’s keeping a list it reminds me of the days with a previous administration with an ‘enemies list’ … they’re more subtle than this in Caracas, Venezuela…Stop the gag orders and the administration…don’t tread on the First Amendment.
Roberts and his colleague Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) are repeating the talking points of the insurance industry. Watch a compilation:
To be clear, premiums do follow underlining health care costs, but the new health benefits are responsible for only a very small fraction of the increase. According to actuaries at Hewitt Associates, a global consulting firm, “the most immediate reforms under the law — including the new protections known collectively as the Patient’s Bill of Rights — will contribute ‘approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of the 8.8 percent projected increase for 2011’” — far less than what the insurers are claiming.
The Enzi resolution to eliminate the new grandfather regulations ultimately failed in a procedural vote of 40 to 59, but not before the GOP invented a new stat for attack. Enzi claimed that “there will be 100 pages of regulation for each page of that bill.” “There are 2,700 pages in that bill. That means there are going to be 270,000 pages of regulation,” he said. (Sen. McCain came up with a different estimate, 121 pages of regulation for every 2 pages in the bill.)
But as Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) asked, “where did that come from? It sounds like it came from the health insurance industry to me.”