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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."

By Jonathan Capehart  | February 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Posted by: yadielzion | February 19, 2010 1:05 AM | Report abuse

California is free to enact its own "health care reform" to address the problem. Other states have done so.

Posted by: spamsux1 | February 19, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Ironic that it was Anthem that once again raised Sebelius' ire. She first won political fame in KS as the obscure state Insurance Commissioner, an office so minor there was no concerted Republican effort to oppose her in Crimson-red KS. Anthem of Indiana made a move to buy BC/BS of KS, which was a mutual owned by the policy holders. Big golden parachutes for the BC/BS board and execs; a hose for the policy holders. She successfully exposed the scheme; gained renown; and waltzed into the Gov's chair when the GOP self-immolated in the primary civil war between hard shell social conservatives and political moderates (read: pragmatists) so venomous that the winner was unelectable in the general. And once again, here's Anthem to behave so stupidly that it just may revive the moribund health care reform effort. Ahh, the circle of life....

Posted by: hcgmcpo | February 19, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Sebelius has faint respect for accuracy. Mr. Capehart had to correct her glaringly inaccurate statistic.

But during this interview she makes two other mistakes. Anthem is not raising the rates on 800,000 policyholders by 39%. They will raise some rates by that much, but other publications cite that the average rate increase for the group is 24%. She has made this same error another time on TV when she said the "average"
rate increase is 39%.

Also, H1N1 is not this year's Annual Flu. While the CDC is planning to add H1N1 vaccine to the 2010-2011 vaccine, it is not part of the 2009-2010 vaccine, nor should the fact that one has taken the H1N1 vaccine be mistaken that they are immunized against seasonal flu as she implies.

If her policy making is based on her thinking, she really is dangerous to our health and wealth.

Posted by: islestar | February 19, 2010 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Just listening to this interview gave me a new perspective of the level of intelligence that HSS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has.

She's has absolutely no idea what is she's talking about. She just spews out statistics and information as fact and tries to pass herself as an expert.

This is the person responsible for protecting the health of all Americans?

May God keep America from getting seriously ill for at least 3 more years.

Posted by: NorthMan | February 19, 2010 11:10 PM | Report abuse

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