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Does U.S. Health Insurance Need A Checkup?

As Americans approach their golden years, many claim they have yet to see a dime from their health insurance providers. In fact, many say they’ve only received excuses about why insurers won’t pay up.

Robert Hunter, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” that there are ten times as many complaints on health care as financial problems. “We’ve seen a major shift in how insurance companies handle claims,” said Hunter. “They’ve begun to say the claims operations of insurance companies are a profit center.” Hunter added that Americans buying long-term care must be careful: “Some companies are doing a lot worse than others,” he said.

Frank Keating, president and CEO of American Council of Life Insurers, said that the allegations are rare. “They [health insurance providers] would be absolute fools not to want to pay claims, if that claim in fact was justified and legally required,” Keating said. “That’s why we have aggressive enforcement from the states."

On Monday, The New York Times reported that some insurers have developed procedures that make it increasingly difficult for policyholders to get paid. "If it’s true what that Times article suggests, it’s outrageous, it’s unacceptable, and I’m sure the company is appalled,” Keating added.

Insurers say that some denials are necessary to curb fraud. Others say it’s simply a matter of profiteering. Either way, rising health care costs are a growing national concern -- and are poised to be a key issue in the 2008 election. A one-year stay in a nursing home now averages $75,000 and it’s expected to reach over $200,000 by 2030.