AHIP’s strategy stumbles

AHIP’S STRATEGY STUMBLES…. Yesterday, the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry trade group for private insurers, launched a new attack against reform, issuing a report with dire warnings about increased premiums should reform become law. The strategy, apparently, was to help derail the Democratic initiative the day before the Finance Committee vote.

How’d that work out? Not so well. Marc Ambinder explained:

It seems weird that the insurance industry … would suddenly embrace a facially flawed conclusion about the effects of health care reform. Electoral politics is probably the last thing the American Health Insurance Plan (AHIP) trade group wants to be accused of now — and shifting gears on an increasingly popular health care reform bill at the last minute — playing directly into the hands of Democrats who just knew that the insurance industry only a fair-weather friend — stiffing Max Baucus’s Herculean efforts to craft an acceptable bill without a public option (for the industry!) — is a curious stratagem.

Even if you’re not an expert on health insurance reform, it’s not hard to see why Democrats are accusing AHIP of dropping its pretense to intellectual honesty. Put simply, the report, produced Price Waterhouse Cooper, does not account for the subsidies that the government would pay to help people purchase insurance and a variety of risk adjustments and grandfathering that will almost certainly pass Congress in any bill…. Hoping to pop this trial balloon before it expands, the White House and allies have counterpunched with an alacrity unfamiliar to Democrats.

Politico reported that the AHIP report “infuriated some of the very people the industry group hoped to influence.” The article quoted a senior Senate Democratic aide saying, “It is an incredibly stupid strategic blunder. If you are going to fire a shot like this, you fire a good shot.” George Stephanopoulos added that in light of the AHIP stunt, “the chances that some kind of public option will make it into the final bill have now increased.”

As for what to expect today, the Senate Finance Committee will start considering the reform bill in about half an hour, but don’t expect a vote until 2 p.m. eastern, at the earliest.

Senate Democrats are confident that the panel will approve the measure, and “have already begun their own internal negotiations aimed at reconciling the various measures passed by House and Senate committees.”

And in case you’re wondering, no one seems to have any idea how Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) will vote, but her support won’t be necessary for passage.