Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is taking credit for helping to delay a rate increase from the state’s largest health insurance company, as state regulators review the proposal. Late last month, Grassley sent a letter to the CEO of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, asking for justification of the rate increases that were being planned.
“I’m glad my letter got more information for consumers on that rate increase,” Grassley says. “It also seems to have gotten the attention of the governor, who now has reversed his own insurance commissioner.” Governor Culver is directing the state insurance commissioner to “stay” the premium increase.
Culver, a Democrat, is calling for a third party, independent actuary to review the matter and determine whether rate increases are justified.
Wellmark planned to boost rates an average of 18% for about 80,000 Iowans. The rate hike was scheduled to take effect on April 1 after winning approval from the state insurance division. Grassley says he did get a letter back from Wellmark, which said the rate hikes were due to the rising costs of health care.
“The response provides some answers,” Grassley says. “But I still have strong concerns about the level of increase, especially given Wellmark’s having significant reserves.”
Grassley, a Republican, says health care costs are rising far too quickly, especially for people who buy their own insurance. “What’s worse, the pending health care legislation that could be pushed through congress in the next three weeks, would make health insurance premiums go up even more than they’re already going up,” he says.
According to Grassley, lawmakers need to “start fresh” on the legislation. Grassley says the latest measure as proposed by President Obama would pump $400 billion into the insurance industry.
See the Culver story here. Culver spokeswoman Erin Seidler issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, ridiculing Grassley’s assertion that he’d prompted Culver to take action. “Chuck Grassley has as much impact on the governor’s office as he has on the weather,” she said.