Insurers pay big to defeat public option …

... but pushed mandate to require all to buy their products

A story on Bloomberg reveals that the leading health insurance industry group – America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) –funneled $86.2 million to an effort by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose the recent health care overhaul and the public option.

That single contribution amounts to 40 percent of the Chamber’s entire advertising budget for last year, yet is only a drop in the bucket – the bucket of money spent by the health care industry overall spent to blunt reform.

AHIP won its top two legislative goals: killing the public option and supporting an individual mandate that requires all Americans to buy health insurance. But its insurance company members were still unhappy with it, because of the amount of a reform provision regarding medical loss ratios, the provision calling for more premium dollars to be spent on actual health care, and less on marketing, lobbying and profits.

Thus, AHIP is undergoing major restructuring as it shifts its focus from Congress to the Administration – that’s where the action shifts as the administrative branch carries out the bill’s many provisions. AHIP is expected to advocate pruning away at reforms that limit insurance company profits while extending coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans.

Healthcare spending was 17.3 percent of America’s GNP last year – the 1.1 percent jump from the previous year was the largest ever. Health care reform, if not repealed or gutted by the incoming House, will make important inroads in reducing the curve, and is even projected to lower the deficit.

There are ways to serve this country besides putting on a uniform. Rising health care costs threaten the viability, maybe even the long-term survival of our country. Perhaps it’s time to redefine one form of patriotism as joining the war against exploding health care costs here at home. There’s nothing wrong with making a profit, but how much profit is enough?

Could it be time for the health care industry to put America first?

Comments