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Individual health-care premiums to soar up to 60%

Minimum hike to be 3% -- Durbin slams move as boost to profits

BY SANDRA GUY
Chicago Sun-Times
March 8, 2010

Individual health-insurance rates in Illinois will rise this year up to 60 percent, according to Michael McRaith, director of insurance for Illinois.

McRaith said insurance companies have filed reports showing that the individual plans' base rates will increase from 3 percent to more than 60 percent. The report, which lists each insurance company's rate increase from Jan. 1, 2008, to the present, can be seen online at insurance.illinois.gov under "Insurance Latest News."

Sunday, Sen. Dick Durbin responded to the report: "Emergency rooms are overflowing. Health centers are struggling to meet the increasing demand. Yet insurance companies continue to raise premiums for hardworking families and, consequently, their profit margins."

The report shows that 500,000 to 600,000 Illinoisans have bought private health-care policies from legitimate, licensed insurance companies.

Insurance companies are not required to report what they charge for group plans, such as those offered by employers.

McRaith said his office deals with 15,000 formal complaints a year about individual health-insurance policies.

He said, "We need some kind of ability to understand why their premiums are increasing so dramatically."

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told top U.S. health insurers to publicly justify a spate of double-digit premium hikes, mostly affecting individual policies.

http://www.suntimes.com/business/2089458,CST-NWS-insure08.article