Businesses, Employers Sometimes Split On Health Reform
Employers around the country are split on supporting or opposing health reform "reducing the force of an opposition push," just as business lobbying heats up in the fight, The Washington Post reports.
"Less noted has been the diversity of opinion among small and medium-size businesses. Many agree with the (U.S.) Chamber (of Commerce) that a public insurance option would undermine the private insurance market and that requiring companies to provide coverage would impair job growth. Others say the current system is so broken that they are assessing whether to support the reform plans."
"The wait-and-see approach that many businesses are taking - alternately skeptical and hopeful - is a further sign that the alliances that previously scuttled health-care reform may be scrambled this time around, not just in the health-care industry but also in the business world at large" (MacGillis, 7/23).
Insurers, however, are relying on numbers provided by consulting firms, though one particularly influential one - the Lewin Group, widely cited by opponents of a public plan for insurance - is owned wholly by the UnitedHealth Group, The Washington Post reports in a separate story.
"To Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the House Republican whip, it is 'the nonpartisan Lewin Group.' To Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, it is an 'independent research firm.' To Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), the second-ranking Republican on the pivotal Finance Committee, it is 'well known as one of the most nonpartisan groups in the country.'" Lewin produced one of the most cited statistics in the current debate -- data that say a public plan will cause 100 million people to lose their employer-provided coverage.
"Lewin's clients include the government and groups with a variety of perspectives, including the Commonwealth Fund and the Heritage Foundation. A February report by the firm contained information that could be used to argue for a national system known as single-payer, the approach most threatening to insurers, Sheils noted. But not all of Lewin's reports see the light of day. 'Let's just say, sometimes studies come out that don't show exactly what the client wants to see. And in those instances, they have [the] option to bury the study,' Sheils said" (Hilzenrath, 7/23).
And a recently released ad highlights how groups continue to stake out their positions. Kaiser Health News reports that America's Health Insurance Plans' "seven-figure ad campaign to tell the public how the 'insurance industry is stepping up to do its part for health care reform,' said Robert Zirkelbach, AHIP's spokesman."
The insurers' group's "ad campaign began airing July 20 and will continue until the end of the week. The new ad, "Illness," was produced by the strategic communications firm Purple Strategies, which includes among its principles GOP strategist Alex Castellanos and Democrat Steve McMahon. It takes a strikingly different tone than the Harry and Louise ads, also financed by insurers, that helped cripple President Clinton's reform attempt in the 1990s" (Weaver, 7/23).