After working for months behind the scenes to help shape health care reform, the insurance industry is now sharply attacking the emerging plan with a report that maintains Senate legislation would increase the cost of a typical policy by hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year.
A spokesman for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., whose 10-year, $829 billion overhaul plan faces a final Finance Committee vote Tuesday, was quick to react Sunday, questioning the credibility of the industry's late-in-coming cost estimate.
"It's a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple," said the spokesman, Scott Mulhauser.
The health insurance industry has been working until recently to help draft legislation, while publicly endorsing President Barack Obama's goal of affordable coverage for all Americans. The alliance has grown strained as legislation advances toward votes in Congress.
Late Sunday, the industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans sent its member companies a new accounting firm study that projects the legislation would add $1,700 a year to the cost of family coverage in 2013, when most of the major provisions in the bill would be in effect.
Premiums for a single person would go up by $600 more than would be the case without the legislation, the PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis concluded in the study commissioned by the insurance group.
"Several major provisions in the current legislative proposal will cause health care costs to increase far faster and higher than they would under the current system," Karen Ignagni, the top industry lobbyist in Washington, wrote in a memo to insurance company CEOs.
The study projected that in 2019, family premiums could be $4,000 higher and individual premiums could be $1,500 higher.