The big insurers now seem to be doing anything they can to prevent a Medicare-equivalent public plan
being launched to beat them up. Yes AHIP has apparently decided to throw the schlockmeisters off the boat, and more or less agree to end medical underwriting.
Those of you who listened to my interview with Tom Epstein of California Blue Shield will recall the cognitive dissonance he was suffering when he had to defend Blue Shield and other insurers’ behavior in the individual insurance market (hey, it’s the man’s job), while at the same time calling for policies that would essentially end the individual market and create a near-universal purchasing pool. By definition, that would require some level of uniformity of benefits and some risk-adjustment mechanism, and consequently it would put several currently profitable lines of insurers business out of business—yes I am talking about Tonik and Mega Life & Health among others. In general this might be a good trade for the bigger plans as they’d add a bunch more younger healthier lives at a higher price point (although what Wellpoint’s actuaries and accountants really think about it is yet to be determined—note their opposition to the similar ArnieCare legislation).
So as AHIP makes this big cognitive leap—presumably to be traded for Baucus getting rid of the public plan in the forthcoming legislation—it sends its head lobbyist out to tell the world how different they all are.
2:15 p.m. ET: On the subject of health care costs, Ignagni says "we've got a very good record in our health plan community of bringing costs under control." And insurers, she says, are developing "a new 3.0 version of those tools" to keep costs from soaring even more than they have.
This is what drives me nuts about health plans in general and Ignagni in particular. There ought to be a role for properly incented intermediaries to manage providers in terms of improving cost & quality on behalf of their members. Medicare FFS sure as hell doesn’t do it well.
But in what universe was Ignagni living in the last decade if she thinks that "we've got a very good record in our health plan community of bringing costs under control."
And what level of credibility can we give the “health plan community” if they allow their main lobbyist to spout this kind of nonsense. If the big plans have decided to throw some AHIP members overboard, perhaps it might be time to throw the organization’s President with them. Defending the egregiousness of the Bush/Cheney health plan years isn’t what AHIP needs to be doing, and apparently Ignagni just can’t stop.