Health Care

Insurers Gouging Small Businesses

In what industry experts say appears to be an act of last-minute price gouging, health-insurance companies, under pressure from Wall Street, are implementing drastic increases on premiums for small-business owners before Congress votes on health-care reforms that could cut into their profits. Entrepreneurs say their premiums are increasing by about 15 percent for the coming year—twice as much as last year. The big charges are squeezing businesses just when their revenue is falling. But they may also increase support for a government-run public option that would help control costs—something the insurance industry has fought hard against. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the premium increases underline "the urgent need for health-insurance reform, including a public option. We need to have competition for the insurance companies to keep premiums down.”