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Murkowski Cites Analysis That Says Insurance Premiums Would Spike in Alaska Under Senate Health Care Reform Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Oct. 28 that a large portion of Alaskans would see their health insurance premiums increase by as much as 161 percent under a Senate Finance Committee proposal that Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada could use to help craft a new massive health care overhaul measure.

Reid has merged the Finance bill with another health care reform measure passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Reid has yet to unveil the new legislation. In that regard, Murkowski today signed on to a letter from Senate Republicans urging Reid to immediately make the new proposal available to the public for review on the internet.

Murkowski asked the Alaska Division of Insurance (ADI) to analyze a study by Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, the largest insurer in the state, that examined what the impact of the Senate Finance Committee bill would be on Alaskans. According to ADI, nearly 60 percent of Alaskans covered under Premera's individual health plans have lower cost policies with higher deductibles ($5,000, $7,500 and $10,000) and/or lower benefits.

Under the Finance Committee measure, these lower cost plans would not meet the coverage requirements. As a result, individuals with these policies would be forced to purchase new, more expensive health care plans with premium increases ranging from 60 percent to 161 percent ($1,500 - $2,500 annually).

At Murkowski's request, the Alaska Division of Insurance assessed the methodology of the Premera analysis. ADI told Murkowski that the method used to develop the premium estimates was appropriate and that the results were reasonable.   

"Alaskans deserve to know if their premiums will increase under the proposed health reform bills," Murkowski said. "Although the President has said that if you like the health care plan you have, you can keep it, we know that 60 percent of Alaskans are enrolled in high-deductible health plans, which would not meet the coverage requirements.

"Under the Finance bill, these Alaskans would be forced to upgrade their insurance policies, resulting in significant premium increases.  I cannot support legislation that increases costs to average working Alaskan families. While I support reforming the private market system through eliminating pre-existing conditions, removing annual and life-time limits and reducing overall health care costs, the approach under the Finance bill is the wrong way to go."

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