Insurance CEO on Health Care Summit

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," February 25, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, Congress just slamming them for it, but did these health insurance giants ask for it, hiking rates when the economy is down? Reports lawmakers are now bashing WellPoint for a 39 percent rate hike in California, the president using it to make his own case.

My next guest heads up one of the largest health insurers in the country. Jay Gellert is CEO of Health Net.

Jay, good to have you.

JAY GELLERT, CEO, HEALTH NET: How you doing, Neil?

CAVUTO: I'm OK, but, obviously, your industry still is the butt of a lot of the criticism in Washington.

What did you make of that WellPoint move? Even if it were necessary — and I find it hard to believe a 39 percent rate increase ever would be, but I'm no expert — what do you think of just its timing?

GELLERT: Well, I think it — the more important point is what Congressman Altmire just said. If we don't get our hands on the cost of care, we're going to see rate increases like this.

CAVUTO: Really, like 39 percent?


GELLERT: Well, not -- they're — they make up for a number of years of cost increases. We will not see 39 percent, but we will see more than Americans can afford.

I personally believe that the summit was good. I think that both sides agreed that, if we don't attack costs, we can't fix the system. We welcome the White House...


CAVUTO: But both sides might agree on that, Jay. They might agree on that, but they're far apart on addressing that. And — and now the indications are that what is already in place is effectively going to be rammed through. It might be sort of a smaller, lighter version, but that's the version we're going to get that does not largely address these cost issues you raise.

GELLERT: Well, it's a valid point.

We went to the White House last May and said we could cut 1.5 percent out of the trend in health care beginning in 2012. That would save the country $2 trillion over the 10-year period. That's what we need to do.

If we did that, we could make most of the other differences between the parties go away. It's time that the -- we're all called back and told to meet our commitment to do that. That's the way we will solve the premium problem, and that's the way we will solve the deficit problem.

CAVUTO: I just wonder, though...


CAVUTO: But you know what I wonder? And not to disparage your industry, I am wondering, though, that maybe some of your colleagues pounced on what appears to be a helping care — a health care impasse, bad poll numbers for the Democratic leadership, bad poll numbers on sentiment for health care reform, and then get sort of cocky and ram through these increases, thinking, ding-dong, the health care reform witch is dead.

GELLERT: Well, we, in fact, have gone back to the leadership and said we want reform. We want cost containment. And we're ready to stand with the other stakeholders and take the 1.5 percent out. So, we're ready to be called, and we're ready to solve the problem.

And it's time that we focus on doing it. I was encouraged that both the Republicans and Democrats said they want to do that. And if you have the $2 trillion now...

CAVUTO: But if you — Jay, if you — in all honesty, if you were talk to your WellPoint colleague, and say something on that 39 percent increase request, what would you tell them?

GELLERT: Well, I think that we need to solve the problem. And the way to solve the problem is to reduce the cost of health care. I think the test...

CAVUTO: And not increase rates, in the meantime, 39 percent, right?

GELLERT: Well, yes. But the test in the interim is, people should call us in and see if we're sincere about doing...

CAVUTO: All right.

GELLERT: ... what Congressman Altmire said.


GELLERT: And that's what we really should be talking about today.

CAVUTO: Understood.

GELLERT: We should be talking about, can we take $2 trillion out of America's health care costs over the next 10 years? I think we can.


CAVUTO: All right, Jay, very good point. We're running out of time. That hearing is still going on. Surprisingly, they are still talking.

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