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Kucinich Calls on Insurers to Testify Before Panel

The insurance industry is facing new heat from House Democrats as Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Domestic Policy, on Wednesday requested that six top insurance company executives appear before his panel to explain how they do business.

Kucinich in his letter said the Sept. 17 hearing will examine “the nature, cost/benefit, and impact of administrative measures and protocols used by the health insurance industry to determine coverage for doctor-prescribed health care treatments, as well as costs of administrative measures undertaken by doctors to interface with insurance companies.—

The missive went to CEOs of Aetna, WellPoint, Cigna, Humana, Hemingway Health Care and UnitedHealth. It follows a request earlier this month that Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of that panel’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, sent to 52 insurance companies requesting reams of potentially embarrassing financial information. Waxman and Stupak are seeking details of executive compensation packages, conferences and retreats they sponsored, and the profitability of their products.

Kucinich, a vocal House liberal, asked the insurance executives to prepare testimony to “discuss the methods and protocols by which your health insurance company determines coverage for prescribed medical treatments, the administrative cost associated with this activity, and your company’s awareness of the response by doctors to these activities.—

“I further request that the testimony put into context anecdotes of claims denials, deferrals, and policy rescissions by insurers,— Kucinich wrote. “Your testimony should also discuss the adequacy and availability of data on, and government oversight of, the extent and impact of these actions.—

A Kucinich spokesman declined to provide immediate comment. Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Oversight and Government Reform ranking member Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), called the probe a distraction from more pressing investigations he said the panel is foregoing — into stimulus spending, the Wall Street bailouts and the Countrywide mortgage scandal.

“Shouldn’t that be our focus, rather than using the guise of our authority to intimidate the insurance companies to influence the health care debate?— he said.

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