Health Industry Leaders Optimistic On Reform, Though Qualms Remain
Industry analysts say insurers may not "have much to fear" from reform proposals, though the industry has been portrayed as "the system's main villains," the New York Times reports. Though Obama deployed several horror stories about insurers in his speech, he also said, "I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business," and minimized the importance of the Democrat-supported, insurer-feared public health insurance plan. "The rhetoric seemed to be much more positive," Aetna Chief Executive Ronald A. Williams told the Times (Abelson, 9/10).
James Carlson, CEO of Amerigroup, went even further, saying, "Most of what we're reading would grow our business [health insurance] dramatically. ... I don't think you can say that about a lot of other participants in the health-care system," Bloomberg reports, adding "That means more revenue for an industry House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of California, called 'immoral' and the chief obstacle to covering the uninsured, in an Aug. 1 interview" (Nussbaum, 9/11).
Nevertheless, "Health insurers were disappointed that [Obama] didn't drop the controversial 'public plan' option from his vision for health care reform" in the Wednesday speech, the Hartford Courant reports. Mickey Herbert, the chief executive of ConnectiCare, said "If he would just give that up, he could get 80 percent of what he wants" (Gosselin, 9/11).
Meanwhile, "[t]he medical device industry, which has generally stayed out of the headlines when it comes to health care reform so far, is now campaigning hard against a new tax proposed in the influential Senate Finance Committee Bill, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Burcum, 9/10).
Some hospitals are also asking for payment reform that rewards quality and value, a focus they say was conspicuously absent from Obama's speech, the La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune reports (Rindfleisch, 9/11).
Finally, Kaiser Health News reports one industry lobbyist has found himself wearing the shoes of a consumer advocate. Rick Colby, who represents biotech, pharmaceutical and device companies by day and is a Republican, pays $30,000 a year for insurance after two members of his family had cancer. His daughter died of a brain tumor at eight, briefly lowering his rates. He said he broadly supports overhaul efforts, especially Obama's plan to ban insurers from excluding coverage or charging higher premiums based on preexisting conditions (Galewitz, 9/10).