Vice President Joe Biden faced a standing-room-only audience yesterday at a meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), where he discussed the Administration’s health care proposal and the need to create a level playing field in the insurance industry. Biden was invited to speak at the NAIC Fall meeting in National Harbor, Md., where he told members that the reform health care would not impact health insurers’ competitive set. “I want insurance companies to make money,” he said.

Calling the national dialogue a “legitimate debate,” the vice president directly addressed the most common arguments against the plan. He said the proposal would preserve and create more competition while providing more choices for consumers. The plan would include 30 to 40 million new paying customers, many of them healthy and young, which would keep costs down.

Underpinning the dire need for reform, the vice president presented new White House findings that “health insurance premiums in states have gone up between 90% to 150% over the last decade—far faster than wages and inflation.”

He also presented a set of “good ground rules” that he believes insurance companies should adopt to restore stability. “If every company has to have some guarantees, no company is at a competitive disadvantage,” he said. These rules include:

• No Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions;

• No Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays;

• No Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care;

• No Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill;

• No Gender Discrimination;

• No Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage;

• Extended Coverage for Young Adults;

• Guaranteed Insurance Renewal.

While stressing the urgency of reform, the vice president also noted the plan’s historic nature. “We have never been this close to real health insurance reform. I mean that. I have never seen such broad agreement on so much of a major reform plan in my decades of public service. The health care system is broken; the need for reform is acute. The time is now to get this done—and get it done right.”

Biden closed his address by noting the influence and importance of state insurance regulators. “Your input in the process will be key to the success of health care reform. You support reform. You know better about the inefficiencies, cost shifting and bad practices. You’re the best equipped to educate consumers and a critical line of defense against fraud. You are the most influential to deal with this issue in our states.”


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