August 19, 2009 / 5:22 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-U.S. House Democrats expand health insurer probe

* Letters sent to Aetna, Cigna, Humana, dozens of others

* Companies being asked about executive pay, other issues

* Committee seeks Sept. 14 response

* Health insurers stock indexes down 1 percent (Adds company comments, background, share prices, byline)

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Top Democrats on the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee are questioning dozens of health insurance companies about executive compensation and other practices.

Letters sent to Aetna Inc AET.N, Cigna Corp (CI.N), Humana Inc (HUM.N), UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) and WellPoint WLP.N, among others, aim to learn how the companies are making use of premiums paid by individuals, employers and the government, the committee said on Wednesday.

The investigation comes amid a tumultuous debate over larger efforts to reform the U.S. healthcare system, with Democrats pushing for more competition and access to affordable health insurance plans, among other changes.

In the letters, posted to the committee’s website, committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Bart Stupak requested details on employees who received more than $500,000 from 2003 to 2008 as well as compensation information for company board members.

They also asked for data on total company revenue and other financial information for those five years, according to the letters, dated Aug. 17.

Waxman's committee, which posted the list of companies and UnitedHealth letter on its website,, is seeking responses by Sept. 14.

Spokesmen for UnitedHealth and Aetna confirmed their companies had received the letter but had no other comment.

Cigna spokesman Chris Curran said that while it would “respond as appropriate” to the letter, some of the information requested is already publicly available.

Shares of health insurers on the S&P Managed Health Care and Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor stock indexes were both off 1 percent in late afternoon trade.

While the letters did not specifically mention any reform efforts, Waxman has been critical of insurers and launched an investigation into industry practices last year.

His committee passed healthcare reform legislation in late July calling for a government-run health insurance plan as well as cooperative insurance exchanges among U.S. states.

Three other congressional committee have also backed similar proposals, but all eyes are on the forthcoming Senate Finance Committee bill to see what changes it backs. (Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Gary Hill)

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