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HEALTH PLANS: HIAA, while not existing anymore, beats drum for CDHPs–while its successor AHIP misrepresents KFF study about individual insurance

Last year the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), the trade group of small health plans that created the "Harry and Louise" commercials which helped torpedo the Clinton health plan, merged with the Association of American Health Plans (AAHP). At the time AAHP supported the Clinton plan. The new happy family is called AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans). But even though HIAA doesn’t officially exist any more, it doesn’t seem to stop it putting out its own press releases.they have a survey to prove that they’re wanted and needed! Here are some choice excerpts from the article called Receptive Market Among Individuals-Employers For Consumer Choice Health Plans:

In this case they are backing consumer-directed health plans, and

Almost half of those surveyed said they would consider switching to a new consumer choice health plan if given a chance, despite their satisfaction with their current employer-sponsored health insurance, results of two new surveys released by the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) found. And more than half of the businesses asked said they either currently offer a consumer choice health plan or intend to offer one sometime in the next five years, the survey conducted by Public Opinion Strategies found.

"This study clearly shows that consumers are ready to look at new alternatives for healthcare financing," said HIAA President Dr. Donald Young. "We expect consumer choice health plans will quickly and dramatically increase in acceptance over the next five years." The survey found that 67 percent of the people who have health insurance benefits through their jobs expressed satisfaction with their current coverage, up slightly from previous years. But 44 percent of those surveyed said they were at least somewhat likely to switch to a new consumer choice health plan. Those less satisfied with their current coverage and those with high deductibles or premiums expressed a greater likelihood of switching, according to the results.

Funnily enough these findings basically contradict what HSC and Kaiser FF have reported about CDHPs–which is that employers aren’t that keen on them and that they are just cover for cost shifting to employees. If you hadn’t guessed by now Public Opinion Strategies is a Republican polling firm –there are of course Democratic equivalents like Hart Research. Public Opinion Strategies has been accused of push polling (a venal sin amongst real survey researchers) and also was heavily involved in the 2002 Saxby Chambliss campaign in Georgia, the one that played fair and nice by comparing triple amputee and Vietnam war hero Max Cleland to Osama Bin Laden.

While this type of poll is clearly for sale, it even confirms that those most interested in CDHP’s are those who already have high deductibles and generally crappy benefits. In other words,

if you’ve got good coverage at work now, you are very unlikely to want to change it

. Several polls of employees show that to be true, and anyone watching the California grocery employees or the SBC unions know how important (even irrationally important) health benefits are to employees. But of course if HIAA/AAHP members can walk into their customers with this poll to talk about and a nice new set of shiny products to sell, then their trade association has done (at least some of) its job.

Meanwhile AHIP’s headline in their press release about last week’s Kaiser FF study on the health insurance market shows that spin from the AAHP side of the organization is very much alive and well too– and that there’s no tax in Washington on lying. Their

press release

is titled (I kid you not) Individual Insurance Market Study Finds Americans Have Access to Affordable Individual Health Insurance. AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni is quoted as saying that "This new study provides further evidence that millions of individuals have access to affordable and flexible individual health insurance." However, if they’d bothered to have someone stroll down the street in DC and listen in to the press conference they’d have noticed that the study explicitly was only looking at what was available and what was being bought in the market, predominantly of course by the 80% of healthy people in the population, and did not have any data on what was available to everyone in the market–including of course those people who are sick and might actually need health insurance. This of course is like saying that 80% of Iraq is peaceful, so despite the war raging in Najaf the place is in good shape.

On a minor historical footnote, some years back (in 1997 I recall), while fighting a losing battle against the demonization of managed care, AAHP put out a study claiming that managed care plans had saved the economy billions of dollars in comparison to what people would have spent on health care had the rate of premium increases in the mid-1990s been the same as it was in the late 1980s–when they were going up three times the rate of inflation. That was such a crappy piece of "research" that I wrote a special article for my corporate clients explaining why, and suggesting that they never allow this kind of stuff to get out with their name attached to it. Well with this latest press release it seems AHIP is at it again. Meanwhile I’m still waiting in vain for the AHIP study showing how much their members have cost the economy in the last five years by allowing health care costs and premiums to increase by over four times the annual rate of inflation!

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