AFL-CIO asks state insurance officials to investigate health plan lobbying

No one would argue that health plans have deployed their full lobbying powers to influence the outcome of the health reform process--after all, every major interest in the health insurance industry is doing the same thing. And doubtless, some critics would contend that lobbying has gone too far when they have too great a role in the process.

But AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is going further. He's called specifically on insurance commissioners in Connecticut, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania to investigate the extent, if any, to which health plan lobbying costs are impacting consumer premiums. In a statement on the matter, Trumka notes that he's written to commissioners in those states since two of the top U.S. insurers (WellPoint and Cigna) are based in those states.

Trumka's statement, for example, cites Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has asked Connecticut regulators for a rate increase of up to 30 percent, while reportedly spending $9.5 million on lobbying. He also accuses UnitedHealthcare of foul play for proposing a premium hike on its Medicare supplemental plan while spending $2.6 million in lobbying during the first half of '09.

Realistically, Mr. Trumka probably realizes that lobbying costs aren't incredibly large compared to other expenses faced by health plans, but he's obviously trying to focus attention on the behind-the-scenes influence-peddling process. My bet is that he'll achieve that goal, though it's hard to judge how much more he can get done this way.

To learn more about the AFL-CIO's stand:
- read this press release

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