Insurance industry attacks healthcare reform

The insurance lobby comes out against reform, just before a key vote in the Senate

Published October 12, 2009 1:13PM (EDT)

So much for bringing the insurance industry to the table.

The health insurance lobby released a report Monday directly attacking the healthcare reform proposals moving through Congress. The report, by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, says the reforms would raise the cost of premiums, so the lobbying group, America's Health Insurance Plans, will now be arguing that it's best to drop the whole idea.

It may not seem particularly surprising that the insurance industry would come out against healthcare reform efforts, but it's a blow to the White House and to Democrats in Congress who had been working with AHIP all year on the plan. Early on, the insurance group was one of the key players that the administration invited in for meetings about how to proceed. The group's lobbyists have been heavily involved in drafting legislation as it moved through committees, especially the Senate Finance Committee -- which, as it happens, is set to vote on its version of the reform plan on Tuesday. For the group to break away from the whole effort now that it's already managed to influence the process at every step along the way is particularly slimy.

So the administration hit back, hard. "This is a self-serving analysis from the insurance industry, one of the major opponents of health insurance reform," a White House spokesman told Salon. "It comes on the eve of a vote that will reduce the industry's profits. It is hard to take it seriously." Democrats in Congress weren't much more pleased. "This report is untrue, disingenuous and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long as they stand in the way of reform yet again," a Finance Committee spokesman said. "Now that health care reform grows ever closer, these health insurers are breaking out the same, tired playbook of deception to prevent millions of Americans from getting the affordable, accessible care they need… It's a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple."

As long as the insurance defection doesn't mean the loss of too many votes by moderate Democrats in the House and Senate, this might work out well for progressive goals. AHIP was pushing aggressively to keep any form of public option out of the final legislation. But if the White House has decided the insurance industry is an enemy, the administration may not worry as much about keeping insurers happy.

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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