Health insurance industry launches own reform
Pre-emptive drive begins in Columbus
Plain Dealer Bureau
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
To get ahead of the election debate on
health-care reform, the nation's main health insurance trade
group kicks off a nationwide health-care reform drive in
Health-care reform ranks just behind the
That's why the health-insurance lobby wants to
get a head start in
Fifteen years ago, insurers helped sink
reforms proposed by President Clinton with an ad campaign
featuring a fictional couple, "Harry and Louise," who complained
Now, the industry is more conciliatory. Its first newspaper ads say: "Health care costs too much. We agree." The insurers won't reveal how much they're spending on their "Campaign for an American Solution" initiative or say whether they prefer proposals by Republican Sen. John McCain or Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.
"They are both talking about areas where there's lots of room for consensus, like prevention, management of chronic conditions, and making expansion of coverage a top priority," says AHIP Executive Vice President Mike Tuffin.
The insurers want any reforms to build on the
current system, which covers 250 million Americans, and say that
tax credits could be used to extend coverage to some of the
nation's 47 million uninsured. When they hold their event in
Health Care for America Now - which launched its own $40 million voter mobilization campaign earlier this month with events in 38 states - wants private insurers to be regulated strictly, so they can't deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, hike premiums for the sick or elderly, or charge higher rates to women. It also seeks public health insurance as an alternative to private plans.
"Health care will be a big issue regardless of who is elected president," says the group's national campaign manager, Richard Kirsch. He prefers Obama's approach to McCain's, in part because Obama wants a public health insurance option.
Obama and McCain both want to make it easier for employees to retain insurance if they switch jobs, and cut medical costs by boosting preventive care.
They take different approaches toward covering the uninsured. McCain would eliminate employers' ability to deduct health insurance costs as a business expense, but he would provide refundable tax credits that workers could use to purchase health insurance. His campaign estimates his plan would help an extra 20 million to 30 million people get health insurance.
Obama wants to let those with insurance keep their plans, and create a new national insurance program that would give the nation's uninsured coverage similar to what federal employees receive. Employers who don't contribute toward their workers' health insurance would have to contribute to the national plan.
McCain domestic policy adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin says Obama's plan would reduce flexibility, cost an exorbitant amount, and encourage employers to cut workers' coverage and put them on the government plan.
Obama domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden said employers would drop coverage under McCain's plan because they could no longer deduct it, forcing workers onto the more expensive individual market.
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