Monday, October 12, 2009

Shooting from the AHIP... or 1993 All Over Again?

Last week on the PoliProf Blog I warned that the decison by the Senate Finance committee to water down the individual mandates in the health reform legislation risked raising the ire of the insurance industry. Consider their ire raised... After initially signaling support for reform efforts the industry's chief lobbyist issued a report today that projects that the legislation, as currently proposed, would add $1,700 a year to the cost of family coverage in 2013. When asked, Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), would not rule out attack ads on TV featuring the study.

In 1993, AHIP was responsible for the highly effective Harry and Louise ads which featured a middle-aged, middle-class couple, expressing deep concern over the bureaucratic nature of Clinton's proposed reform. One can only assume that AHIP is dangling a similar threat now to extract as many concessions as possible at this make or break point. Democrats and the White House have reacted harshly to this apparent broadside from AHIP, but they had to know that it was coming after weakening the individual mandate. As it stands now, insurers will be required to cover high risk folks with pre-existing conditions, but will not get to bring all of those young, healthy folks into the risk pool because the mandates have been so weakened – suddenly reform looks like a bad deal for the insurance industry - and they are expressing their displeasure. Given the power of the insurance industry, Democrats should be worried.