Insurers’ ‘Triple-Barreled Assault’ Triggers Counter Attacks
A "triple-barreled" insurance industry attack on the Senate Finance Committee's health legislation including separate reports sponsored by America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, as well as television advertisements in six states is "a reminder that the insurance industry has enormous financial stakes in a health care overhaul and will not sit by while its interests are threatened," the New York Times reports (Seelye, 10/14).
But, the industry "uses facts selectively and mixes accurate assertions with misleading spin and an embrace of worst-case scenarios," the Associated Press reports. In one example, an ad suggests seniors could face a "50 percent reduction in extra benefits," referring to extra benefits covered under some private Medicare Advantage plans. "The announcer's words are true - but could be easily misunderstood to mean that basic Medicare coverage is at risk" (Fram, 10/15).
The Blue Cross Blue Shield report argues that premiums would soar, especially in states with less regulation of the industry, the Washington Post reports. "The bill would affect some states more than others, but consumers in those states could find that, as premiums for some go up, many others' would decline. The reason: Lightly regulated states also tend to have higher rates of uninsured and underinsured people, which leads to more people going to the emergency room and higher premiums for those who are insured," the Post reports (MacGillis, 10/15).
Like the earlier AHIP report, the Blue Cross Blue Shield report argues that premiums would rise for individuals under reform plans, but TIME reports, it "is carefully written, includes necessary caveats and considers some key pieces of the Finance committee bill omitted from the AHIP study - like the billions in subsidies that would be made available to Americans to help them buy coverage. Said one longtime health insurance actuary, 'This is a nice piece of fruit compared to the rotten tomato we got on Monday,' referring to the earlier AHIP study" (Pickert, 10/14).
Regardless, clear differences among the industry's key players are becoming evident. "The insurance industry's once-unified stance in the health-care debate is showing signs of fissure as legislation to overhaul the system moves forward," the Wall Street Journal reports. Aetna and other big insurers sell plans primarily to corporations and have less to lose than smaller insurers in a potential health-care overhaul (Johnson, 10/15).
And, "Fears about high costs of the health care overhaul and mistrust of insurers are rekindling interest in letting the government sell health insurance as part of the plan," the Associated Press reports, adding: "The insurance industry study asserting that the Finance bill would raise premiums for everyone only added fuel to the fire. 'The report says costs are going up - the best way to get costs down is the public option,' said (Sen. Charles) Schumer" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/14).
Senate Democrats also "fired back, threatening Wednesday to revoke the industry's long-standing antitrust exemption," the Washington Post reports. Democrats said the industry's exemption was partly responsible for the steep rise in health costs. One Senator called it "one of the worst accidents in American history (Montgomery and Hilzenrath, 10/15).