Private insurers launch new attack over reform

PRIVATE INSURERS LAUNCH NEW ATTACK OVER REFORM…. Private health insurers haven’t exactly played a constructive and supportive role on health care reform this year. So it’s not especially surprising that, the day before the Senate Finance Committee votes on a reform plan, the industry’s trade association is issuing a new series of warnings.

After months of collaboration on President Obama’s attempt to overhaul the nation’s health-care system, the insurance industry plans to strike out against the effort on Monday with a report warning that the typical family premium in 2019 could cost $4,000 more than projected.

The critique, coming one day before a critical Senate committee vote on the legislation, sparked a sharp response from the Obama administration. It also signaled an end to the fragile detente between two central players in this year’s health-care reform drama.

Industry officials said they intend to circulate the report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers on Capitol Hill and promote it in new advertisements. That could complicate Democratic hopes for action on the legislation this week.

Administration officials, who spent much of the spring and summer wooing the insurers, questioned the timing and authorship of the report, which was paid for by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), an industry trade group.

Halperin described this as “AHIP Defects,” but I don’t think that’s quite right. AHIP has been hostile to Democratic reform efforts for quite some time now — it’s not as if the insurance industry is walking away from friends and allies here. Indeed, my first instinct was to dismiss all of this as a meaningless stunt — dire warnings from AHIP about reform falls comfortably into the dog-bites-man category.

Jonathan Cohn nevertheless went through the substantive details. While some of the larger concerns — a weak individual mandate, for example — are legit, Cohn seems largely unimpressed with the AHIP analysis. Ezra Klein went further, calling the new research “deceptive,” adding that the report “doesn’t offer much in the way of trustworthy policy analysis.”

The response from pro-reform policymakers is equally hostile. A Democratic spokesperson for the Senate Finance Committee called the insurance industry’s attack “untrue,” “disingenuous,” and “a health insurance company hatchet job.” A White House spokesperson added that the report is a “self-serving analysis,” which is “hard to take seriously.”

Front-page coverage notwithstanding, it’s hard to imagine the new AHIP effort having too much of an effect in the short term.