NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — Something has to change, or rising health costs will cripple businesses and the federal government.
Vice President Joseph Biden delivered that message here today at the fall meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo.
Biden reminded insurance regulators in the audience that the cost of health insurance premiums has gone up 90% to 150% in the last decade.
The gaps between premium increases and wages are growing, Biden said. In Florida, he said, health coverage rates have increased 121%, while wages have risen 43%. In Michigan, the state with the smallest gap, there is still a 37% gap between premium increases and wage increases, Biden said. Individual reform ideas can be debated, Biden said, but if nothing is done, in 30 years, 1 in every 3 dollars will be spent on health care.
“Spending by federal government on Medicare and Medicaid alone will be 15% of GDP by 2040,” Biden said. “It’s now around 5%.”
The high cost of the health care system is already hurting U.S. businesses’ ability to compete internationally, Biden said.
“This is simply an unsustainable position,” he said. “I want insurance companies to make money. But I also want them held accountable.”
Biden said he would like to see health insurers abide by the following “basic ground rules”:
- No preexisting condition exclusions.
- No exorbitant out of pocket expenses, deductibles or co-pays.
- No cost sharing for preventive care.
- No dropping of coverage for the seriously ill.
- No more lifetime caps on coverage.
Biden said these ground rules would not affect companies’ ability to compete, because the same rules would apply to everyone. Under the current system, he said, companies that “do the right thing” would be at a competitive disadvantage.
Biden praised insurance commissioners for understanding the need for reform, for speaking out in favor of it, and for dealing first hand with consumer complaints about the current system.