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February 26, 2010

Velázquez Helps Lower Health Care Costs for New York City Families

Washington, DC – Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act, H.R. 4626; legislation that will lower health care costs by promoting competition among providers.  In 2009, the average monthly premium for family coverage was 13 percent higher than the year before. A loophole in federal regulations has enabled large insurance companies to raise costs while limiting benefits.  Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) applauded the bill for closing this loophole, resulting in more affordable health care for New York City residents. 

“Health insurance premiums are rising at an alarming rate which far exceeds what working families can afford. At a time when people’s budgets are already stretched thin, legislation that helps drive health care costs down is more important than ever.” Velázquez said. 

Currently 1.3 million residents in New York City are uninsured and for those that are covered rates continue climbing.   By bolstering competition, the bill provides incentives that encourage insurance companies to lower costs and improve quality -- helping the uninsured access essential care and providing relief for those struggling to afford coverage.

“Increased competition means more choices for consumers, reducing costs and improving benefits. For decades big insurance companies have followed their own rules and it’s time to level the playing field.  With the passage of H.R. 4626, fairness is finally restored and New Yorkers will have more access to essential care at an affordable price,” Velázquez said.

In New York State, the two biggest health insurance companies control 46 percent of the market, and premiums for families increased by 97 percent between 2000 and 2009. Subjecting the health insurance industry to the same anti-trust laws as other industries will help prevent price fixing and monopolizing of the market. H.R. 4626 passed the House by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 406-19 and must now be considered by the U.S. Senate.