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Kerry Works to Protect Massachusetts Seniors from Costly Healthcare Premiums

Press Release

Location: Boston, MA

BOSTON -- Senator John Kerry, senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), penned a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today requesting corrective action to protect seniors with Medigap supplemental coverage from unnecessary rate increases.

In the letter, the Senators cited the recent example of a private health insurer, United Life of Omaha Insurance Company, increasing Medigap premiums for seniors by approximately 40 percent. The Senators wrote that this increase "raises serious concerns about premium-setting practices and rate review procedures in place for Medigap policies."

"Governor Patrick and our local health insurance providers need every tool to protect seniors from excessive out of pocket costs," said Sen. Kerry. "We want our seniors to have the best care without the added stress of worrying about how to come up with the money to pay for. That's a principle which Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Baucus, and I fought to include in health reform, and I look forward to working with Secretary Sebelius to ensure it's implemented across Massachusetts."

The full text of the letter is below:

October 6, 2010

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius


U.S. Department of Health Human Services

200 Independence Ave. SW

Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

We share your commitment to delivering high quality health care coverage to our nation's Medicare beneficiaries at the best possible price. This commitment is exemplified by the announcement that beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans will see their premiums decrease by 45 cents a month, on average, next year.

While Medicare Advantage premiums are declining, we are hearing disturbing stories from beneficiaries across the country about excessive premium increases for Medigap supplemental insurance policies. For example, some beneficiaries enrolled in the United of Omaha Life Insurance Company will see their Medigap premiums increase by approximately 40 percent between 2010 and 2011. An increase of this magnitude raises serious concerns about premium-setting practices and rate review procedures in place for Medigap policies.

As you know, the Affordable Care Act establishes an annual review process for premium increase for health insurance coverage and provides $250 million in funding to States so they can engage in meaningful rate review. While this rate review does not apply to Medigap plans, we request that you work with Governors and State Insurance Commissioners to help them gain this authority where it does not exist today.

In addition, you can help State officials assess the accuracy of Medigap rate increases. We request that you conduct a study of Medigap trends and costs to provide a benchmark against which proposed rates can be measured.

We look forward to working with you to ensure that Medigap enrollees are protected from unnecessary rate hikes by insurance companies and that State regulators have the necessary tools to make this happen. Seniors, like all Americans, deserve to get the most health care for their premium dollars.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.


Harry Reid Max Baucus John F. Kerry

Senate Majority Leader U.S. Senator U.S. Senator

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