HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a America's Health Insurance Plans conference today that she has not intended to "vilify hardworking employees of insurance companies" after the insurance lobby this week criticized her for singling out health plans in the healthcare reform debate.
"I want to make clear I'm not hear to vilify hardworking employees of insurance companies across the country or blame insurance companies for all the problems of our healthcare system," Sebelius said in a 20-minute address to the AHIP conference in Washington DC.
Earlier this week, Sebelius asked five health plans leaders to "publicly justify" their proposed double-digit premium rate hikes, similar to a request she made after a White House meeting with healthcare leaders last Thursday. In response, AHIP spokesman, Robert Zirkelbach, criticized Sebelius's remarks, saying "The men and women are working hard every day to make the healthcare system better and they do not deserve to be vilified for political purposes."
In her speech in Washington DC today, Sebelius asked AHIP to ensure "transparency" behind proposed insurance rate hikes and "help us pass comprehensive health reform." She said healthcare needs to shine "the light on what is happening [with the costs] and what is driving this market place."
"Take the bully pulpit, use it to start calling for comprehensive reform to pass, look at giving Americans some relief with market strategies," Sebelius said, "instead of spending energy attacking parts of the proposal you don't like."