Insurers Offer to End Prices Tied to Illness
by Caleb Reading
The health-insurance industry said it would be willing to stop charging sick people more for coverage if all Americans were required to buy insurance.
Tuesday’s proposal, included in a letter to Senate leaders by the industry’s two main trade groups, is the latest move by health insurers to position themselves as constructive participants, rather than obstacles, in the debate over how to overhaul the U.S. health-care system.
Insurers hope to prove the private sector can fix problems on its own. Most urgently, the industry wants to head off momentum for a government-run program that would compete with private carriers.
[…] In the letter, the groups said they could “phase out the practice of varying premiums based on health status” if there was an “effective, enforceable requirement that all Americans…obtain and maintain health insurance.” The industry had already said it was willing to offer coverage to all Americans, even those already sick, as long as it could rely on a requirement that everyone get insurance. But the offer to also stop setting premiums based on illness is new.
The health-insurance lobby didn’t rule out charging varying premiums entirely. The letter added that insurers would still have to be able to set different rates according to age, geography, family size and plan design “to maintain affordability” for many people. And it addressed only the individual market, not that for small businesses