February 22, 2010 in Nation/World

Obama to seek rate hike limits

Proposal part of effort to save health care overhaul
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama will propose giving federal authorities the power to limit rate hikes by health insurance companies – part of a new health care overhaul plan he will unveil today in a last-ditch bid to salvage his signature issue.

The proposal would give the federal Health and Human Services Department – in conjunction with state authorities – the power to deny egregious premium increases, roll them back, or demand rebates for consumers, said a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity because details have not yet been officially released.

The proposal for tighter oversight of insurers, modeled on legislation proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will be part of a sweeping overhaul plan which the White House plans to post on its Web site today, ahead of a health care summit with congressional leaders of both parties on Thursday.

The broader plan, likely to be opposed by the GOP, is expected to require most Americans to carry health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies to help many afford the premiums. Hewing close to a stalled Senate bill, it would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more. The expected price tag is around $1 trillion over 10 years.

The summit at Blair House, the White House guest residence, will be televised live on C-SPAN and perhaps on cable news networks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday he would participate, but insisted Obama and congressional Democrats would be wrong to push the bills they wrote in the House and Senate.

“The fundamental point I want to make is the arrogance of all of this. You know, they are saying: ‘Ignore the wishes of the American people. We know more about this than you do. And we’re going to jam it down your throats no matter what.’ That is why the public is so angry at this Congress and this administration over this issue,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

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