Congress Questions Insurance Executives

It was a rare sight - leaders from the nation's largest insurers sitting down to get grilled.

Members of Congress pushed the top brass from Cigna, Humana, Aetna and more to explain why premiums have shot up 131 percent in the past 10 years - more than triple the average wage increase, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes. Special Section: Health Care Reform

Lawmakers accused insurers of putting profits before customers - customers like 2-year-old Sidney Gendernalik from Los Angeles, who suffers from a rare syndrome known as infant spasms. Her father, Mark Gendernalik, said that Sidney can have up to 50 seizures a day.

From the moment Sidney was diagnosed at 3 months, her insurer, Regal Medical Group, began denying treatments, test and drugs.

"There's a part of me that's lost an opportunity to be my daughter's father," Mark Gendernalik said. "Because I have to be out there, so does my wife spending time and effort battling one referral to the next one, one authorization for a drug to the next. It's not right."

The six executives insisted they support reform, to a point.

"We believe if those reforms are enacted, then a government-run plan is not necessary," said one executive.

"We would not have a level playing field since insurers are subject to taxes and other types of expenses," said another.

Even more notable than what the insurance companies said was the fact that they said it at all. Normally, they like to stay out of the spotlight and let their national lobby defend their practices.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.