WASHINGTON – Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ratcheted up the pressure on health insurance companies on Wednesday, urging them to forgo short-term profits and stop fighting President Barack Obama's health reform plans.
"You can choose to take the millions of dollars you have stored away for your next round of ads to kill meaningful reform, and use them to start giving Americans some relief from their skyrocketing premiums," Sebelius said in prepared remarks to an insurance industry group.
"If you take this approach, you may give up some short-term profits. But you will also be helping to create a sustainable health insurance market where all Americans will be able to buy coverage," Sebelius said in a speech to a conference sponsored by America's Health Insurance Plans.
The Obama administration is pushing Congress to pass sweeping healthcare reform legislation and has sharply criticized insurers for big increases in premiums and profits. Sebelius told the group that premiums would continue to rise if the healthcare overhaul fails.
AHIP President Karen Ignagni said the industry was concerned about the big premium increases, saying there was increasing "alarm" about the rising cost of care.
"We are very disturbed about what is happening with underlying costs," Ignagni said as she introduced Sebelius.
Sebelius called for more transparency in premium pricing and to work with the administration to pass comprehensive healthcare reform.
She told the group that Obama's plan was not "radically" different than proposals suggested by the industry group.
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