Health Insurance Chief Lobbyist Says “Villain” Comments Hurt Process

Health Insurance Chief Lobbyist Says "Villain" Comments Hurt ProcessOn a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said the “Washington politics of ‘find an enemy and go to war’ is a major step backward,” damaging the possibility of building consensus on health reform. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made comments last week that health insurers are “villains” in the current health care system. Although Ignagni didn’t mention names, she 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.”

Ignagni wouldn’t say whether the increasingly tough talk from Democrats or the White House would undermine insurers’ support for the overhaul effort. She said that it was “with the hope of helping to create a more constructive climate that health plans began three years ago to develop a set of reform proposals” that ensured that no one would be denied insurance for pre-existing conditions. But, she noted that would be “hard to do” without incorporating an individual mandate in any health proposal. 

AHIP also continues its opposition to the inclusion of a government-run plan. “We’re 80 percent there with the kind of consensus this time around in 2009 that never existed in 93-94,” she said. “Unfortunately I think the full focus on the government-run question has obscured this consensus.”

As Congress recesses, Ignagni said AHIP will spend time and advertising dollars to communicate its support for bipartisan reform. “We’re going to continue to focus on the proposals that we’ve been advocating for more than three years,” she said. “What we’re going to do in August is make sure every American outside Washington understands what we have proposed, what we are for and the fact that we are working hard to help forge the consensus that must be forged to pass health care reform.”