Insurers, other interest groups prepare for final health reform votes

Insurance companies are arguing that the health reform legislation progressing in Congress would increase premium costs for many Americans. Meanwhile, some of the coalitions have begun to splinter.

An analysis by WellPoint suggests that a "couple in their 60s in less-than perfect health could see their" premiums decrease, while "a 25-year-old healthy man" could see just the opposite, Gannett/The Courier Journal reports. "Democrats say those studies looked only at the parts of the reform packages that would increase costs, such as provisions that would bar insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and ignored the parts that would reduce costs, such as proposed health insurance subsidies for people earning up to 400 percent of the poverty level." In a new report that factors in the subsidies, WellPoint "acknowledges that some people would pay lower premiums under the congressional health care proposals. But company officials still say too many people who buy insurance on their own or in the small group market -- particularly those of average age and health -- would see an increase" (Groppe, 11/1).

Las Vegas Review-Journal: "After studying various reform proposals and weighing them against current coverage levels, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is the latest insurance group to make the cost-busting argument… On average, Nevadans buying individual coverage through Anthem would see premiums rise by 85 percent, the company found. Among small businesses, 70 percent would see premium gains under existing reform proposals" (Robison, 11/1).

"When the insurance industry launched the first full-scale attack on key provisions of health reform, the Democrats' response was swift, brutal and aimed squarely at Karen Ignagni, a former Democratic Capitol Hill aide who is now the industry's top lobbyist," Politico reports. But "Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, held her ground — and may still achieve a win, as the health care debate on Capitol Hill is shifting toward the insurers' major concern, controlling costs." 

Ignagni was criticized for permitting "the release of an analysis that claimed the legislation lawmakers were poised to pass would accelerate the rise in health insurance costs and not 'bend the curve' as lawmakers were promising." The move may have "cost insurers a seat at the negotiating table," but "in the days after its release, both Republicans and moderate Democrats began expressing concerns about insurance costs, although many avoided citing AHIP's study" (Frates, 11/2). 

Meanwhile, Roll Call reports that Divided We Fail, a diverse coalition of the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Business, AARP and the Service Employees International Union, is "not exactly unified". Each member "has been actively pursuing its own agenda on health care," particularly over the House bill. "Representatives from these groups say they always assumed that once health care legislation was drafted, their organizations might end up parting ways. Nevertheless, they argue that they still are promoting the general notion of health care reform. And they still hold weekly staff phone conferences to discuss health care and other issues such as economic security" (Roth, 11/2).

In a separate article, Politico has excerpts from an interview with Shawn and Trevor Parry-Giles of the University of Maryland's Political Advertising Resource Center about the health car ad wars, which includes the following exchange:

"Fred Barbash: Let's compare the ad wars of the '93-'94 health care battles with today's ad wars. We've come a long way since poor old Harry and Louise. What's different?

Trevor Parry-Giles: The volume. I'm hard-pressed to think of any other issue where there has been such a range and volume of ads from such a variety of groups. ... Then, you had those who opposed reform and those who supported it. Now there's a middle ground. Some of the lobbying groups support reform but, at the same time, don't support a public option. ... there are many more ads and so many more of these weirdly named groups out there, Americans for Stable Quality Health Care, Health Care Now, America for Health Care Now. The public doesn't really know who these people are" (Barbash, 11/2).


Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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