President Barack Obama on Monday criticized U.S. health insurance companies for raising premiums and denying coverage to the sick, as he sought to rally Democratic support for his healthcare bill.
Every year, insurance companies deny more people coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. Every year, they drop more people's coverage when they're sick and need it most, Obama said in excerpts from a speech he is to deliver later in Philadelphia. Every year, they raise premiums higher and higher.
Renewing a populist attack on big insurers, Obama accused the companies making a calculation on premium increases. He said they are aware that many people will be priced out of the market by the increases but the firms believe they can make more money by raising premiums on existing customers.
Obama and his fellow Democrats are making a final push to pass their stalled healthcare overhaul, which would reshape the $2.5 trillion industry by cutting costs, regulating insurers and expanding coverage to tens of millions of Americans.
Both chambers of Congress have passed differing versions of the legislation, but efforts to merge the two and send a final version for Obama to sign into law collapsed in January after a special election in Massachusetts cost the Democrats the crucial 60th Senate vote needed to overcome Republican procedural hurdles.
Democrats now plan to use a special procedure that would allow them to pass the bill with a simple majority.
The other day, on a conference call organized by Goldman Sachs, an insurance broker told Wall Street investors that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep raising premiums, Obama said.
But since there's so little competition in the insurance industry, they're OK with people being priced out of health insurance because they'll still make more by raising premiums on the customers they have, he said.
They will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it, Obama said.
(Reporting by Caren Bohan; Editing by David Alexander)