Blog

Political Hardball

Bill Kenealy
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 20, 2009

If you are going to punch a guy, you may as well try to knock him out. That old adage seems to be the central lesson of the recent, ill-fated effort by America’s Health Insurance Plans to impact the health care debate.

When a report financed by AHIP surfaced on the eve of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote on the America’s Healthy Future ACT, it was no doubt intended to be another arrow in the quiver of those opposed to the legislation. However, after questions arose about the report’s methodology and the impartiality of New York-based PricewaterhouseCoopers, which produced the report at AHIP’s request, that arrow became a club that proponents of the legislation used to bludgeon not just AHIP, but the health insurance industry as whole.

“Quite frankly, the insurance industry ought to be ashamed of this report,” Senate John Kerry (D.—Mass.) said as the Committee debated the bill. “It’s a powerful argument why we ought to have a public plan. The report is significantly flawed and the results are not valid.”

Indeed, the upshot of recent efforts by the insurance industry to channel the health care debate has been to paint a brighter target on its back and possibly bring the wrath of legislators down upon on the entire industry, not just health insurers.

Indeed, the once remote chance of insurers losing their long-standing antitrust exemption is looking less remote these days. A bill currently introduced in the House, H.R. 1583, The Insurance Industry Competition Act of 2009, would essentially gut the McCarran-Ferguson Act. It should surprise no one that one of bill’s sponsors is Rep. Gene Taylor (D—Miss.). Taylor, whose district includes coastal communities pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, has been one of the property/casualty industry harshest congressional critics in recent years.

Now, with a great deal of time, effort and political capital invested in reforming health care, health insurers are receiving their dose of opprobrium. Steaming over the AHIP report, Sen. Charles Schumer (D.—N.Y.) accused the industry of a throwing a last-second sucker punch to derail reform and suggested attaching antitrust repeal to any reform legislation.

“The health insurance’s antitrust exemption is one of the worst accidents of American history,” Schumer said in a statement. “It deserves a lot of the blame for the huge rise in premiums that has made health insurance so unaffordable. It is time to end this special status and bring true competition to the health insurance industry.”

While heated words are not immediately translated into direct legislative action, insurers likely ignore them at their peril.

Comments (0)

Be the first to comment on this post using the section below.

Add Your Comments...

Already Registered?

If you have already registered to Insurance Networking News, please use the form below to login. When completed you will immeditely be directed to post a comment.

Forgot your password?

Not Registered?

You must be registered to post a comment. Click here to register.

Blog Archive

Big Data Is Paying Off

Insurers are getting business benefit out of their big data projects, but these projects alone won't grow their business.

What Can Insurers Learn from Home Depot?

The latest cyber-attack highlights the importance of helping policy holders defend themselves.

Not Your Father’s Insurance Company

Carriers need to look at new and impactful ways to be there for their customers.

How to Attract Top Tech Talent

When it comes to rankings of the best places to work, insurers are few and far between. Hereís what those who make the lists do to appeal to IT professionals.

Watch Out. Apple with Mayo is Heading Your Way

From a health care, health insurance and Internet-of-things perspective, questions still remain.

New Generation of Data and Analytics in Cloud

Cloud-based data and analytics products are becoming more common among technology companies, small and midsize businesses and departments.