The health insurance premium increases detailed in a new Obama administration report are just the tip of the iceberg, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday.

Sebelius unveiled the report, part of a Democratic campaign against the insurance industry aimed at ginning up public support for their healthcare reform efforts, zeroes in on exceptionally high premium hikes in seven states, at a press conference yesterday.

“Over the last year, America’s largest insurance companies have requested premium increases of 56 percent in Michigan, 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon, and 16 percent in Rhode Island, to name just a few states,” Sebelius said in a statement. “Premium increases have left thousands of families that are already struggling during the economic downturn with an unpleasant choice between fewer benefits, higher premiums, or having no insurance at all. Hard-working families deserve better.”


Democrats have attacked the insurance industry throughout the reform debate and have directed special attention to Anthem Blue Cross of California's recently proposed rate increases up to 39 percent. After Sebelius demanded answers from the company, Anthem decided to postpone the hike.

The Anthem increase and those outlined in the HHS report are merely examples of what happens in the individual health insurance market, Sebelius said -- and the Democrats' healthcare reform proposals are the solution.

"There isn't an intent to select certain companies. Unfortunately, this is pretty widespread," Sebelius said at a press conference. "Unfortunately, they're not isolated cases."

The HHS report also notes that the biggest insurance companies in the United States continue to reap high profits even as they claim premium increases are unavoidable. "These profits are wildly excessive," Sebelius said.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the trade group that represents the industry, rejected the administration's argument that premium increases are evidence that insurers are bilking their customers. Instead, AHIP contends, insurance premiums are reflecting of the skyrocketing cost of medical care, which it maintains would not be addressed by the Democratic proposals.