Health Insurance Industry Cries Foul
Officials in the health insurance industry discuss their efforts to reform the current system and recent attacks against them.
Time: "Recognizing the growing sentiment for some kind of change and fully aware that universal coverage would help bulk up their rolls as baby boomers age into the Medicare system, private insurers early on declared their (albeit qualified) support for President Obama's health reform effort. So when word came last month that the Democrats were drawing up a new public relations battle plan, the insurance companies were sent reeling - and seemed to be caught off guard. A late July memo from the House Democratic leadership about how to sell reform during the Congressional August recess told members: 'Hold the insurance companies accountable.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called private insurers 'villains,' and President Obama, in an exclusive interview with TIME, framed his push for changes to the U.S. health care system as 'insurance reform.'
Time reports: "In their view, the insurance companies were being thrown under the bus. ... But despite their protests that they are being unfairly vilified, the insurance industry is far from ready to simply accept the reform proposals currently on the table. Most of their efforts are concentrated on defeating the creation of a public health insurance alternative primarily for Americans currently priced out of the private insurance market. But their opposition to Democratic reform proposals goes far beyond the public option" (Pickert, 8/6).
Kaiser Health News spoke with Karen Ignagni, the industry's chief lobbyist and President and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans: "[Ignagni] discussed her take on the Democratic political assault, her industry's end-game strategy and her unflagging opposition to the Democrats' efforts to create a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers" (McGinley, Appleby and Pianin, 8/6).
Roll Call reports on a Democratic attack on insurers and the GOP: "Senate Democrats on Wednesday continued to ramp up their weeklong campaign on health care reform, training their fire on the insurance industry and Republicans who they charge simply want to stop any overhaul from happening. The Democratic offensive comes as the clock ticks toward the four-week August recess, and fresh polling shows public confidence waning for the party's health care proposals. Hoping for a turnaround, the Democratic Conference held a two-hour session to prepare for how to sell its health care reform plans over the break."
Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) "argued that Republicans are in collusion with greedy insurance companies to try to stop health care reform in its tracks. The trio charged that the drop in public confidence in the Democratic health care agenda is the result of a manipulative misinformation campaign by the GOP" (Drucker, 8/6).
In a separate article, Roll Call reports: "Senate Democrats emerged from a special two-hour health care briefing on Wednesday evening largely unified on their message and up to speed on the party's proposals. However, they did not appear any closer to resolving differences over several key issues that continue to divide the Conference" (Drucker, 8/5).