AFL-CIO Asks for Health Insurance Lobbying Probe

5150235The president of a major labor union on Thursday sent a letter to insurance commissioners in a handful of states, asking them to investigate whether consumers' health insurance premiums have risen as a result of anti-reform lobbying expenditures.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka also asked the commissioners to review health insurance companies' lobbying expenditures before approving rate increases. He sent the letter to commissioners in Connecticut, Indiana, New York and Pennsylvania, where the regulators must approve any rate changes.

"We believe that health insurance providers' lobbying expenditures have led to excessive rate hikes," Trumka wrote.

He noted that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield requested a rate increase of 30 percent in Connecticut while spending more than $9.5 million on lobbying efforts this year. Trumka also called for an investigation into UnitedHealthcare and Anthem/WellPoint for forcing employees to attend meetings about helping their employers oppose pending health insurance reform legislation.

The letter is the latest move from labor unions and other pro-health reform groups that are targeting insurance companies, claiming the industry reaps excessive profits from undue influence in Washington and a lack of competition in the marketplace.

The AFL-CIO joined with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and liberal groups Health Care for America Now, Move.org and others to hold rallies around the country on Tuesday outside of health insurance companies' headquarters and offices. Among other places, they targeted Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Conn.; Blue Cross Blue Shield in Bismarck, N.D.; and Anthem Blue Cross in San Francisco, Calif.

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MoveOn.org released a video this week featuring celebrities mocking health insurance executives.

Democrats in Washington have also portrayed health insurance industries as villains, questioning why premiums have shot up 131 percent in the past 10 years - more than triple the average wage increase.

The AFL-CIO has taken an aggressive stance in the health care debate, insisting they will only support a health care bill that includes a government-sponsored health insurance plan, or "public option." The SEIU, meanwhile, is not holding its support for Congress' health care bill to that condition, Politico reports.

CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

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