Tag Archives: America’s Health Insurance Plans

Ignagni v. Obama: Another Victory for the Health Insurance Industry

For months, even as other Democrats fell by the wayside, Nancy Pelosi has been saying she wouldn’t put through health reform without a “robust” public option. Instead, she this week agreed to a provision that would make any public plan weak to the point of meaninglessness.

In announcing the House Democrats’ health reform plan, Pelosi made it clear that she has abandoned any ideas that the public option’s payment rates should be based on Medicare rates, or otherwise standardized and set by the government. Instead, the government-run  insurance plan will negotiate rates with doctors and hospitals, just as the private insurers do.

What this means is that plan rates under the public option will be pegged to those of the insurance industry, eliminating any real chance that the public option will bring down health care costs by “competing” with the private companies. There is no waffling here. Just complete capitulation to private industry.

Pelosi apparently gave in under pressure from members of her own party. But the real winner in the health reform debate are not the so-called moderate Democrats, or the Republicans, and certainly not Obama or Pelosi or Harry Reid. It is Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans. She called the politicians’s bluff—and won.

She knew from the very beginning, as did most of Washington, that the profit-making industries who control the American health care system would emerge victorious. Billy Tauzin, mouthpiece for Big Pharma, whined about Obama’s duplicity but sat tight, knowing the drugmakers had in the end gotten a sweet deal. Ignagni, likewise, didn’t make threats. She waited, then executed her own double-cross and  amidst  liberal yelps ran right through the opposition without a scratch.

Could anyone have blocked Ignagni’s breakaway run? Not in this crew, that’s for sure. LBJ would have stopped her. Liberals scorn Johnson because of Vietnam. But LBJ had a domestic program that he never lost sight of, and that he refused to concede enitrely to the power of corporate America. It was Johnson, after all, who got the bill creating Medicare through Congress, over the objections of the AMA and a lot of other powerful interests. Neither Pelosi nor the  oh-so-clever Rahm Emanuel has Johnson’s dealmaking abilities–or his spine. 

The Health Insurance Industry’s Latest Double-Cross

Just in case anyone thought they couldn’t go any lower, the insurance companies have made yet another sleazy move in the ongoing battle over health care reform. This morning, their industry shill group announced a new “report” warning  that the proposed reforms would raise a “typical family’s” health insurance premiums by as much as $4,000 over the next ten years.

The report, issued by American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), is a particular stab in the back to President Obama and Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus. Both have spent recent month’s assiduously kissing the insurers’ gold plated butts, in exchange for their “co-operation” on health care reform. The Baucus bill is already a giveaway to the health insurance industry: By requiring millions more Americans to buy private health insurance plans, it stands to shovel even more money into their coffers, while posing little government regulation and no competition from a public plan.

But that still wasn’t enough for the insurance companies. As the Los Angeles Times reports, health insurers have concluded that Baucus bill doesn’t do enough “to draw young, healthy people into the insurance pool. Industry analysts predict that by postponing and reducing penalties on those who fail to buy health insurance, it would attract less-healthy patients who would drive up costs.” In other words, some of the new policy-holders might actually require insurance companies to pay for some health care in exchange for their bonanza of new premiums. That, of course, might chip away at their profit margin, whch would never do–so their only option is to raise already sky-high insurance premiums even higher. Or so they say.

Here, via Fox News, are some stats on the poor, starving health insurance executives who could be forced to  prostrate themselves for the good of the general public. Poor guys. Give ’em a break.

Health Insurers’ Executive Pay (2008)

Axis Capital Holdings Limited
John R. Charman
$41.6 M

W. R. Berkley Corp.
William R. Berkley
$29.2 M

Aetna
Ronald A. Williams
$24.3 M

MetLife
C. Robert Henrikson
$20.8 M

Chubb Corp.
John D. Finnegan
$20.1 M

American International Group
Martin J. Sullivan
$14.7 M

Everest Re Group
Joseph V. Taranto
$14.6 M

Commerce Group
Gerald Fels
$13.2 M

Prudential Financial
John R. Strangfeld
$12.9 M

Cigna
H. Edward Hanway
$12.2 M

Wellpoint
Angela Braly
$9.8 M

Coventry
Dale Wolf
$9 M

Health Net
Jay Gellert
$4.4 M

Humana
Michael McCallister
$4.7 M

United Health Group
Stephen J. Hemsley
$3.24 M

Source: The Corporate Library, SEC filings

The LA Times reports that “industry officials said they intended to circulate the report on Capitol Hill and promote it in advertisements.”  What this means is another well-funded effort to scare the public, along the lines of the original “Harry and Louise” ads against the Clinton health care reform. (Those ads were funded by AHIP’s predecessor.) These scare tactics are designed to distract people from the most obvious means of reducing health care costs, which is to kick the bloodsucking insurance companies out of the system altogether–or, barring that, to take a slice out of  their fat profits.