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Insurers Say Democratic 'Villain' Comments Hurtful To Process

by VR Sreeraman on  August 6, 2009 at 1:08 PM Health Insurance News   - G J E 4
 Insurers Say Democratic 'Villain' Comments Hurtful To Process
Karen Ignagni, the health industry's chief lobbyist, said Tuesday that insurers were being singled out and vilified for their role in health care reform when they are the ones trying to reform the system, The New York Times reports.
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After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week called health insurers "villains," Ignagni spent Tuesday hitting back on that message. "'Attacking our community will not help get anyone covered,' she said. While taking a conciliatory tack and insisting that insurers remain committed to reform, she says they will aggressively counter the criticism. 'What we have to do is make sure we correct the record,' she said. As the debate heats up, Ms. Ignagni is facing her toughest test. After winning concessions, and consensus, from many insurance companies with competing interests, she now has to keep them together as the assault on the industry picks up" (Abelson, 8/4).

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Kaiser Health News: "Ignagni... said anyone trying to find a 'villain' among insurers was hurting both the process and 'ordinary' Americans working in the industry. 'They don't deserve to be demonized or vilified as part of a campaign to distract attention away from the sinking support for a government-run program,' she said. Ignagni also called claims about the extravagance of health care profits 'erroneous'" (Villegas, 8/4).

Congress Daily: "Insurers' support could hinge on whether the bill requires individuals to purchase health insurance, a provision included in all three versions of the House bills and in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee proposal. The Senate Finance Committee is negotiating but is likely to include that provision. Ignagni said the regulatory reforms that AHIP backs will only work if health reform includes an individual mandate. 'The record is replete with failures of not coupling the two together,' she said" (Hunt, 8/4).

Roll Call: "AHIP has said its proposal would guarantee coverage for all Americans, regardless of pre-existing conditions. But the industry says its plan will only work if all individuals are legally mandated to have coverage. A government-run plan, she said, would offer artificially low premiums. 'This would force employers to drop their coverage, creating a death spiral for private insurance and financial catastrophe for many hospitals and doctors,' she said (Ackley and Palmer, 8/5).

The Washington Times: Ignagni "said the growing anti-insurance rhetoric is a reflection of Americans' doubts about the public option, the government health insurance program proposed by Democrats."

"Some of the anger with insurance companies has centered around its profits. Lawmakers say in order to provide health care coverage to all, each sector in the health field has to take a cut. Over the past eight years, profits at the top 10 health insurers rose 428 percent, said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, citing data from advocacy group Health Care for America Now" (Haberkorn, 8/5).

The Hill: "During the congressional recess, AHIP will continue its ongoing ad campaign by highlighting the reforms it supports rather than focusing on the public option or other proposals it opposes. 'The best way to address it is straight-up,' Ignagni said, 'to talk about what we're for'" (Young, 8/4).

NPR has a story about insurers profits and asks the question if they're really as low as insurers claim: "AHIP features a dollar bill with one tiny slice out of it on their Web site, illustrating that their members only make 1 cent of every dollar spent on health care. ... (In that, however,) Insurers are measuring their profits against total health care spending. That's all the money you and I and employers and insurers and the government spend for doctors' visits, hospitalizations, drugs and other things. By using the total health care costs, their profits look lower. ... But many economists calculate insurance company profits differently. Just like for any other business, they look at what the companies take in — in this case in premiums — versus what they pay out directly, as in claims" (Silberner, 8/5).

Source: Kaiser Health News
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