WASHINGTON BUREAU — The Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked 52 health insurers to provide detailed compensation information and other information by Sept. 4.

The letter requesting the information was signed by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the panel’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

In addition to supplying detailed compensation data, the companies were asked to list premium revenue by market segment; claims payments; sales expenses; other expenses; and profits for all health insurance products, including an explanation of the methodology used in the calculations.

The data call “is just a fishing expedition designed to silence the health insurance industry and distract attention away from the fact that the American people are rejecting a government-run plan,” says Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington.

The companies asked for data include carriers such as Unum Group Corp., Chattanooga, Tenn., and MetLife Inc., New York, that are now known mainly for selling non-medical insurance products, such as disability insurance, as well as large health insurers, such as WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis, and UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn.

Some of the recipients of the letters are nonprofit companies, such as Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Oakland, Calif., and Independence Blue Cross, Philadelphia.

Elsewhere:

- Reports that Democrats and Republicans have ended efforts to hammer out a health bill may be premature.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says his committee’s bipartisan health reform panel “continues its work” and will hold its next meeting Thursday night by teleconference.

“Bipartisan progress continues,” Baucus says. “The Finance Committee is on track to reach a bipartisan agreement on comprehensive health care reform that can pass the Senate.”

The staffers of the lawmakers on the bipartisan panel are also continuing to meet, Baucus says.

“I am confident we will continue our steady progress toward health care reform that will lower costs and provide quality, affordable coverage to all Americans,” Baucus says.

Sen. Charles Grassley, highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Finance Committee, also has issued a statement expressing a commitment to continuing negotiations.

“I’ve said all year that something as big and important as health care legislation should have broad-based support,” Grassley says. “So far, no one has developed that kind of support, either in Congress or at the White House. That doesn’t mean we should quit. It means we should keep working until we can put something together that gets that widespread support.”

- Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the highest ranking Republican member of the House Financial Services Committee, says he could support creation of privately administered, non-profit co-operatives as an alternative to the public option.

In comments at a town hall meeting in Alabama, Bachus said he also could support health bill provisions that would expand efforts to eliminate fraud and waste in existing government health programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare.

But “I cannot vote for a bill that has the government intruding into the private sector, subsidizing health care and eventually putting the insurance companies out of business,” Bachus said.

- Cliff Roberti, director of government relations at the Self Insurance Institute of America, Simpsonville, S.C., says the insurance industry is awaiting the details of the coop proposal. But, if non-profit coops were included in a health bill, “there would be a great need for actuaries, third party administrators and other professional help to properly structure the non-profit coops,” he says.

“This is akin to any self-insured health benefit plan that a corporation would set up,” Roberti says.

- Robert H. Myers Jr., general counsel of the National Risk Retention Association, Minneapolis, says the idea of building the health coops on a risk retention group chassis is an “interesting idea.”

An RRG is a state-chartered insurance company that can do business in any state under federal law after filing a notice.

Current law allows RRGs to offer only commercial liability insurance, so RRGs could not offer health insurance, Myers says.

But Congress could use the RRG as a model when developing the coops, Myers says.

“RRGs have to be in the control of their members, as presumably coops would,” Myers says.