Insurers’ Report Backlash: Unified Dems, Angry White House, Dissenting Experts
The insurance industry's study on the effects of health reform has incensed Democrats, given reformers a rallying point and inspired a wave of zippy one-liners in news reports.
"Has the health-insurance industry shot itself in the foot?" asks the Christian Science Monitor. "On Sunday, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurer trade group, released a study warning that the Senate Finance Committee's health bill would result in sizable hikes in insurance premiums. The timing of the release seemed intended to influence Tuesday's planned vote on the bill by the full Finance panel. But the study's methodology has been criticized as flawed by outside experts. And the salvo seems to have done something President Obama had been unable to accomplish: unite fractious Democrats in support of the legislation" (Grier, 10/13).
"Now they have an enemy," the Washington Post reports. "For months, President Obama and his administration waged their fight for a health-care overhaul without a clear opponent, even courting the industry executives and interest groups that helped kill reform efforts 15 years ago." The "tenuous truce" has shifted to an "all-out battle," with harsh rebukes coming from White House spokesmen and the insurers' lobby has launched an ad campaign warning that seniors could lose benefits under the legislation. One pollster said the insurers' opposition could increase public anxiety, but that "the health insurance industry is at the bottom of the scale of people's trust" (Connolly, 10/14).
Calling the insurance industry opposition "a move away from the detente it has maintained," the Wall Street Journal writes: "AHIP and its 1,300 members have argued they can abandon such policies as denying coverage to the ill only if the young and healthy are forced to buy insurance. By watering down the penalties, insurers say they won't get as many new customers as they expected -- the exchange for taking all applicants regardless of health status" (Johnson, 10/14).
However, "Not all insurance companies are on board with the AHIP's decision, especially since the report has been met with such strong opposition," Roll Call reports, under the headline "Insurance Industry Sparks A Brawl." One lobbyist said, "There is a lot of concern about the way it was handled and the way it played out." And "the negative attention the report has gotten has put in jeopardy some insurance companies' plans of releasing further state-by-state analyses. Blue Cross Blue Shield Association was set to produce several different waves of reports at the state level targeting moderate Senators during the floor debate. Lobbyists said companies are now rethinking their strategies to include individual meetings with CEOs of nonprofit health insurance plans to make a personal pitch to Senators" (Palmer, 10/14).