Congresswoman Chellie Pingree today said the behavior of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Maine is proof that health insurance companies should be stripped of their special exemption from antitrust regulation. Pingree is a co-sponsor of H.R. 4626, the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act and spoke on the floor of the House today before a vote on the bill.
Pingree said that at one point nearly 8 out of 10 people buying an individual policy in Maine ended up with Anthem as their insurance provider, and Anthem has responded with big rate increases.
"In Maine, Anthem's rates have gone up 250 percent in the last decade--ten times the rate of inflation," Pingree said. "The only thing rising as fast as the premiums big insurance companies charge is their profit margin. Last year profits for the 5 biggest insurance companies rose by 56 percent over the year before. I don't know about you, but I don't know anyone else in this economy who got a 56 percent raise last year."
Pingree said the reason Anthem gets away with such big rate increases is because they own such a large section of the market in Maine, which is why the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies should be repealed.
"I know it's not what Anthem wants," Pingree said. "It's why they have lobbied so hard against health care reform that would lower health care costs overall--but it's what the American people want. The American people believe in fair play, a level playing field and free and open competition--not a system where one massive corporation can run roughshod over consumers."
Only health insurance companies and Major League Baseball are exempt from federal anti-trust exemptions.
The Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition is expected to pass the House later today.