Dr. Garrett Adams warns health insurance costs to soar

By Bill Zechman
Southern Standard (McMinnville, Tenn.), Sept. 4, 2016

A nationally prominent physician and advocate for single-payer healthcare assailed the power and influence of the insurance and drug industries in a speech Thursday at The Rotary Club of McMinnville.

Dr. Garrett Adams, past president of the 20,000-members Physicians for a National Health Program, took aim at health insurance giant Aetna for “manipulating the federal government” by threatening to abandon hundreds of thousands of customers who bought their plans with subsides under the Affordable Care Act, familiarly known as Obamacare.

Aetna and others, such as BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, have asked state insurance regulators for dramatic increases in premiums for policies issued under President Obama’s massive 2010 health care overhaul.  In practically all cases, those price increases were approved, and policy holders may expect scorching premium hikes starting in January.

Tennessee Insurance Commissioner Julie McPeak recently gave the green light to BCBS-TN to boost premiums for its ACA plans next year by an average of 62 percent.  She also approved hikes of more than 40 percent for two other carriers, Humana and Cigna.  The insurance companies argued the hikes are necessary to cover the claims of thousands of people, many of whom had gone without insurance and medical care for years.

Tennessee, along with Arizona and North Carolina, lead the nation in premium escalation, according to an Urban Institute analysis cited in last Friday’s USA Today.  While rates are soaring, competition and consumer choice are vastly shrinking all over the country.

While some rate hikes might be justified by the influx of newly insured customers, there might be a more sinister motive in the insurance industry action, Adams hinted in a WCPT 91.3 interview recording after the Rotary Club meeting.  But if private corporations are trying to squeeze more profit out of their customers and the government subsidies, public hostility and political backlash might hasten the arrival of single-payer universal insurance, he said in the half-hour talk show.  “I hope so,” he said.

The program airs on WCPI Tuesday at 5 p.m. and again Wednesday at 5:05 a.m., Thursday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 1:05 a.m.