Are Insurers Influencing Health Reform’s Rules Behind Closed Doors?

Aetna got a private meeting with top administration officials; consumer advocates want similar access.

The Obama Administration will be making some important decisions over the coming weeks that will determine to a large extent whether consumers or health insurers will be the biggest beneficiaries of health care reform.

When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act last year, it included a controversial provision that insurers insisted on but which is undoubtedly the most unpopular part of the law: a requirement that …

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The Health Care Industry’s Stranglehold on Congress

Special interests target the independent board that may be the last best hope for Medicare reform.

One of the reasons why Congress has been largely unable to make the American health care system more efficient and equitable is because of the stranglehold lobbyists for special interests have on the institution.

Whenever lawmakers consider any kind of meaningful reform, the proposed remedies inevitably create winners and losers. Physicians’ incomes most likely will be affected in some way, as will the profits …

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Keeping an Eye on Insurance Rates in the Golden State

California consumer group pushing ballot initiative requiring regulatory approval for price hikes.

If there is one organization that insurers despise and fear more than any other, it surely must be Consumer Watchdog.

Since its founding in 1985, Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog has dogged insurers relentlessly and played a key role numerous times in forcing them to change business practices and price their policies more fairly. I first heard of the organization in 1996 when I was still an insurance industry …

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Herman Cain’s Historic Health Reform Histrionics

Candidate featured in insurance industry’s efforts to kill Clinton health plan.

I have no inside information about the nature of GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain’s relationship with two women who claimed Cain made unwelcome advances toward them when he headed the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. I do, however, have first-hand knowledge of a mutually beneficial affair Cain was engaged in around that same time — with the health insurance industry.

Soon after President Bill Clinton unveiled his health …

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Republican Field Shies Away from History on Insurance Mandate

Individually-mandated health insurance began from within the Republican party.

In the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged, apparently in an unguarded moment, that a core element of “ObamaCare,” the requirement that all Americans be enrolled in either a private or public health insurance plan, was a proposal originated by the Heritage Foundation, a powerful conservative think tank.

Gingrich made the admission as he was denying former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s accusation that the former Republican …

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‘Occupy Wall Street’ Should Also Take Aim at Health Insurance Companies

Health insurers trade group is calling the tune in Washington.

The lobbyists for U.S. health insurers surely have to be feeling a little uneasy knowing that thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who have been marching and protesting in Washington as well as New York and other cities might target them in the days ahead. After all, the headquarters of the insurers’ biggest lobbying and PR group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., is just blocks …

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Don’t Turn Your Back on Ryan’s Medicare Plan

Health insurers likely to push privatized Medicare for their own benefit.

If you think Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare is dead, think again. After Ryan unveiled his plan earlier this year, there was such widespread criticism that it briefly became a political liability for the Republicans.

The GOP-controlled House of Representatives approved the plan, which would replace the existing Medicare program with vouchers that beneficiaries could use to buy coverage from private insurance. But Ryan’s blueprint never made …

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Health Insurers Would Make Consumers Pay for Better Information

Facing new ‘labeling’ requirements, health insurers warn of $50 million compliance tab it would pass on to policyholders and employers.

A couple of years ago, when Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia asked me to testify about little-known health insurance industry practices at a hearing of his Senate Commerce Committee, I initially was reluctant. I knew that if I was completely honest, my life would change forever.

What he was asking me to do was to disclose practices that …

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Health Savings Accounts Lucrative for Insurers, Costly for Consumers

Insurers aim to push consumers into high-deductible plans like HSAs, phase out low-deductible plans

In its ongoing attempt to weaken a key provision of the health care reform law—the one that requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care—the insurance industry is predicting dire consequences for people enrolled in health savings accounts (HSAs) if lawmakers don’t act soon.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the insurance lobbying group, warned in a recent report that the rapid …

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The ‘Front Group’ Hall of Shame

Today will go down in the public relations history books as the day health insurers and their allies began a coordinated campaign to ensure that the health care reform law is implemented in ways that will benefit them way more than the rest of us. Today is the day they plan to launch their brand new front group—drum roll please—the Choice and Competition Coalition.

But first, a bit of context.

In a chapter of my book, Deadly Spin, entitled “The …

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