Vice President Joseph Biden spoke yesterday at the NAIC Fall meeting taking place near Washington DC, and he used the opportunity to seek the support of state insurance commissioners for the Government's proposals for national healthcare reform. Pointing to the burgeoning cost of healthcare in the US and consequent loss of international competitiveness, the Vice President said that over the last decade, premiums have increased significantly, between 90% and 150% depending on the state, while earnings have increased by much less - the narrowest gap is 37%. He congratulated the commissioners who have sought to resist premium increases. He also acknowledged that insurance commissioners are at the forefront of dealing with consumer complaints and the first line of defense against insurance industry abuses.

The Vice President said that 46% of healthcare spending in the United States is by the federal government on Medicare and Medicaid programs. The healthcare crisis, in his opinion, is not just a crisis for the uninsured, but is also a crisis for policyholders. If the insurance industry supported the reforms, it stood to gain 30 to 40 million new customers, which would counter-balance their loss of premium. He thought there was consensus now on 80-85% of the major issues on the proposed reforms.

Vice President Biden also presented a list of ground rules for the healthcare industry, including prohibiting the exclusion of pre-existing conditions, no cost sharing for preventive medical care, no lifetime caps and no dropping of insurance cover on renewal.

Click here for a fuller report of the speech by the NAIC, click here.

Click here for the White House press release and a link to the Administration's report on health insurance premiums.