Far be it from me to use football terminology, but it sure seemed like America’s Health Insurance Plans threw a Hail Mary pass when it issued an eleventh-hour report that it apparently hoped would throw a giant-sized monkey wrench into the glacially-coalescing health care reform legislation being incubated by the Senate Finance Committee.
The Finance Committee was scheduled to vote–finally!–on its package on Tuesday, Oct. 13. AHIP released its study on Sunday, Oct. 11. The gist of the report, cobbled together (and none too well at that) by PricewaterhouseCoopers, was that the Senate Finance legislation would actually jack up the cost of health insurance premiums for ordinary folks. Indeed, the report said, premiums would rise higher than under the current system.
Now, if you’re going to do something like this–especially after you’ve pledged to play nice, as health insurers have–you really need to make sure that the bomb you’re lobbing is actually going to go off and cause the havoc you desire on your target as opposed to exploding in your hands and leaving you in tatters like Wiley Coyote or some other cartoon character.
The administration and other Democrats were quick to jump on the 26-page report as “distorted and flawed” (in the words of a White House spokesman).
The New York Times reported it thusly: “White House officials said the industry had ignored features of the bill that would lower costs for consumers, like subsidies for people who could not afford insurance. The report, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, acknowledges, ‘We have not estimated the impact of the new subsidies.’”
It is hard for me to believe that AHIP President Karen Ignagni, who is usually very savvy in the ways of Washington, could believe that this type of thing would succeed.
Rather, it has all the flat footedness and tone deafness of executives who can only see what they want to see without regard for how it’s going to play out in the political arena and in the long term.
And, of course, what it does is once again reinforce that image of health insurers as greedy, ‘we’ll do anything for a profit’ robber barons.