A conversation with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius released a report yesterday calling out insurance companies for jacking up their premiums. In a conversation with me at HHS before the press conference, Sebelius pointed to WellPoint's Anthem Blue Cross in California. The company announced last week that it would raise premiums by 39 percent. "No additional benefits," she noted, "just additional cost." Sebelius said that HHS has no regulatory authority over companies and their premiums. Shining a light on what they're doing is all she can do -- for now.
Anthem postponed the increase, but not before it gave President Obama a juicy target in his ongoing quest to reform the health-care system. And it came just in time for the health-care summit he's hosting with Republicans on Feb. 25. Sebelius said the president is "hopeful Republicans will come to the table with a bill." She highlights the four broad policy areas Obama wants addressed in any bill. Oh, and we talked about the possibility of a third wave of swine flu infections. Contrary to reports, Sebelius declares, "It's definitely not over."
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