Mr. BURRIS. Mr. President, a few months ago, my colleagues and I passed a landmark health insurance reform bill.
President Obama signed it into law, and together we ushered in a new era of transparency, accountability, and cost savings for the American people.
Now, these reforms will go a long way towards fixing our broken health care system.
They will restore responsibility to the insurance market, and impose commonsense regulations, to ensure that every American can get a fair deal.
Some of these provisions have already gone into effect. Others will take time to implement correctly.
But as we move swiftly to translate this legislation into reality, we need to be mindful of those who would take advantage of this period of transition.
Already, there are reports that some health insurance companies have drastically increased their rates, using our reform law as an excuse.
I recently heard from Charles, a small business owner from Plano, IL, who reported that his employees will see their premiums go up by an average of almost 28 percent next year.
And some folks will have to pay an arbitrary increase of 35 percent--even though their benefits haven't changed yet.
That is because a few big insurance companies have chosen to hike up their profits before our health reform law requires them to improve their services as well.
Now, there is nothing wrong with making an honest buck.
But these abusive increases will make it harder for ordinary folks and small businesses to get coverage in the short term.
There is no question that they violate the spirit of our reform law--so I believe we need to take action.
It is time to close this loophole, so big companies must compete with others in an open marketplace--and so they can be held accountable for unreasonable rate hikes.
That is why I am proud to support the Health Insurance Rate Authority Act.
This legislation would require insurance companies to justify major increases in their premiums--a power that already resides with regulators in a handful of States.
Our bill would merely bring similar regulatory authority to a national level, in response to numerous claims of abuse all across the country.
Mr. President, this wouldn't put insurers out of business or prevent them from making an honest profit, but it would increase transparency, restore accountability, and ensure that these corporations can remain solvent.
In my home State of Illinois, some insurers must already supply rate increase information to the State department of insurance.
But under current law, regulators are powerless to rein in obvious abuses when they occur.
And as a result, small business owners like Charles--and countless folks in the individual market--are held hostage to the same corporate agendas that led us to pass a health reform law in the first place.
This is unacceptable. We need to pass the Health Insurance Rate Authority Act, to keep insurance providers in check until the full effects of the new law have taken hold.
I would urge my colleagues to join with me in standing up to the insurance giants.
Let's give regulators the authority to approve or deny excessive rate hikes, so we can make sure every American can get a fair deal--starting today.