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Health Insurance Companies Like UnitedHealth Must Be Held Accountable For Undermining Consumers


Medicare Drug Discount Card Enrollment Begins
Getty - Tim Boyle
 IJR Opinion is an opinion platform and any opinions or information put forth by contributors are exclusive to them and do not represent the views of IJR.

Last month’s confirmation hearing for Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as Secretary of Health and Human Services signaled an important message: Americans can expect some major changes in healthcare in the upcoming months, most notably a plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, amidst our changing political landscape, one thing has remained the same: health insurance companies are still profiting at the expense of consumers.

In late January, UnitedHealth reported their most recent earnings for 2016. With revenues reportedly rising 9 percent to nearly $47.5 billion, the mega-insurance company has clearly done well. This news is in stark contrast from UnitedHealth’s announcement last April that the company would exit most of the exchanges in 2017 due to financial losses and the messy dynamics of the ACA. What followed was a slew of other insurers such as Aetna, Humana, and Blue Cross Shield, making similar announcements, even though they, too, profited under the law.

Last week, Aetna announced that they would be leaving the ACA exchanges in 2018, citing a tough quarter. But despite reports that this was a business decision, during the Aetna/Humana merger trial, it was disclosed that Aetna was threatening to pull out of the exchanges to pressure the government. Even more puzzling is the fact that under the health care law, the company’s profits grew significantly and surmounted expectations, including a 4.5 percent increase in revenue this quarter.

This shrinking pool of competition and narrower networks leaves consumers with legitimate concerns about lack of coverage options.

While holding insurers accountable was supposed to be an essential part of the ACA’s foundation, the exact opposite has occurred. From a cozy relationship with the government to rising health care costs and skyrocketing premiums, providers are continuing to thrive while consumers are left to fight ever-growing healthcare obstacles. Nevertheless, with Rep. Tom Price as HHS Secretary and a new Congress at the helm, America might finally find the opportunity to pave the way for improvements in the country’s healthcare system.

Price has been a longtime critic of the ACA and has described the law as “a costly and misguided encroachment of government that will destroy jobs and drive our nation further toward a fiscal crisis.” In an ABC article, Price says, “the purpose of health reform should be to advance accessibility, affordability, quality, responsiveness and innovation.” The ACA is harming consumers and Price believes he can reform healthcare.

In order to ensure that the next four to eight years are centered in providing quality, affordable and accessible health care to consumers across the country, we must ensure that our nation’s leaders are holding insurance companies accountable, something that hasn’t happened in nearly eight years.

As President Trump settles into the White House, it’s imperative that he makes Americans’ health and well-being a top priority, not more of the same crony capitalism. More importantly, however, we must encourage policymakers to implement meaningful changes and solutions to healthcare issues that not only lowers costs, but also increases innovation. It’s critical that our nation’s leaders take concrete steps and implement long-lasting, common sense policies that advance medical discovery, making 2017 a breakthrough banner year in healthcare.

The nation is waiting.

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