Dems leaders urge HHS to crack down on Medigap rate hikes

Top Senate Democrats on Wednesday called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect seniors in Medigap plans from "excessive" rate hikes.

"We are hearing disturbing stories from beneficiaries across the country about excessive premium increases for Medigap supplemental insurance policies," Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Max Baucus (D-Mont) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) wrote to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 

The lawmakers cited some Medigap plans offered by United of Omaha, which will see premiums increases around 40 percent next year.  

"An increase of this magnitude raises serious concerns about premium-setting practices and rate review procedures in place for Medigap policies," the Democrats wrote.

Although the new health reform law includes $250 million for states to monitor rate changes, the reviews don't explicitly cover Medigap plans, the lawmakers note.

They're calling on HHS to "work with Governors and State Insurance Commissioners to help them gain this authority where it does not exist today."

The lawmakers are also requesting "a study of Medigap trends and costs to provide a benchmark against which proposed rates can be measured."

"Seniors, like all Americans, deserve to get the most health care for their premium dollars," they said.