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Health Reform Carries Heavy Price, Insurers Claim

A new report paid for by the insurance industry has concluded that health care reform would increase the costs of coverage faster and higher than under the current system.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    That follows two health care stories: debating the costs and covering the uninsured — first, what new legislation could mean for premiums.

    Our health correspondent, Betty Ann Bowser, begins with some background.

  • SEN. MAX BAUCUS, D-Mont.:

    We will come to order.

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    On the eve of a key Senate Finance Committee vote on legislation to overhaul the nation's health care system, the insurance industry mounted an attack on the bill. It came in the form of a report conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, and was paid for by the industry's trade group.

    It said the Finance Committee proposal would "increase the cost of private insurance coverage for individuals, families, and businesses" faster and higher than under the current system, because not enough Americans would buy health insurance under the bill. The resulting penalties for failing to do so would be too low.

    It would also cut Medicare payment rates, which the study said would trigger higher charges to private insurers, and, ultimately, those costs would be passed on in higher premiums to consumers.

    And the bill's combination of new taxes and fees on medical device makers, drug manufacturers, and on high-end insurance plans, or so-called Cadillac plans, would also be passed on to the consumer.

    The analysis also noted that, over the next decade, the cost of a typical family policy would be $20,000 more overall than it would be under the current system.

    Reaction from Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus was quick and harsh. Spokesman Scott Mulhauser offered this statement: "This report is untrue, disingenuous, and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long, as they stand in the way of reform yet again. It's a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple."

    In the 1990s, insurers played a major role in defeating then President Clinton's health care plan. Premiums have spiked 130 percent since 1999.

  • WOMAN:

    Have you been taking your medications?

  • BETTY ANN BOWSER:

    This time around, insurers have agreed to stay at the negotiating table, at least until now, as long as there is a universal mandate.

    The Senate Finance Committee bill is one of five bills currently under consideration in Congress.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Margaret Warner has more on the state of the negotiations over cost and benefit.

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