WASHINGTON BUREAU – Health insurers say imposing new taxes on them in an effort to pay to expand access to coverage would backfire.
Officials at America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Chicago, make the case against new taxes on health insurers in a letter sent to the Senate Finance Committee.
The committee is “marking up” a health reform “chairman’s mark,” or bill draft outline, prepared by the Senate Finance Committee staff under the direction of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.
Baucus has proposed imposing $6.7 billion in additional taxes on health insurers.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that “annual fee on health insurance providers” would increase premiums by about 1% percent, AHIP and the Blues write in their letter to the Finance Committee.
The groups also express concern about a move to limit the “age band” – the difference between the rates insurers can charge their oldest insureds and their youngest insureds.
Today, in many states, health insurers can make the age band as wide as they want to be.
Baucus originally suggested a 5-to-1 age band. In the latest version of the chairman’s mark, the age band has narrowed to 4 to 1.
If age bands are narrowed too much, premiums will rise significantly for individuals under the of 35, and that age group is the fastest-growing segment of the uninsured, AHIP and the Blues write.