ALEC Exposed: Sabotaging Healthcare

This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy.

Days after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, I arrived at the spring 2010 meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in Denver, where a fellow consumer representative introduced me to one of the hundreds of industry lobbyists swarming the convention center. “She’s somebody we can work with,” he said, clearly convinced …

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Nonprofit Insurers Accustomed to Double-Digit Rate Hikes Fight California Plan

Nowhere are health insurers working harder to thwart reforms that could save consumers billions of dollars than in California. One measure they are especially determined to kill is a bill that would give state regulators the authority to reject rate increases that were excessive or discriminatory.

The California Assembly passed a bill to do just that earlier this month over the intense opposition of insurers, including the state’s biggest supposedly nonprofit health plans: Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente.…

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The ‘Clear Obscurity’ of the Health Insurance Industry

Insurers’ selective statements on profits reveal tools of the PR trade

I turned 43 a couple of weeks after I joined CIGNA in 1993. One of the birthday gifts from my new colleagues was a framed three-word quote by E. B. White: “Be obscure clearly.”

We laughed hard. It was an inside joke—and a perfect present for an HMO PR guy who sometimes had to be obscure when responding to media inquiries.  Reporters always wanted more information than I dared …

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Are Insurers Writing the Health Reform Regulations?

One of the reasons I wanted to return to journalism after a long career as an insurance company PR man was to keep an eye on the implementation of the new health reform law. Many journalists who covered the reform debate have moved on, and some consider the writing of regulations to implement the legislation boring and of little interest to the public.

But insurance company lobbyists know the media are not paying much attention. And so they are able …

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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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‘Reframing’ the Debate to Make Insurers Look Poor.

In 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau delivered the troubling but hardly shocking news that almost 51 million Americans — nearly one out of every six of us — had fallen into the ranks of the uninsured. If you think that news would also be troubling for health insurance companies, think again. While the country was struggling to emerge from a recession, and more and more of us were struggling with no medical coverage, the big for-profit insurance companies were rolling …

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Insurers Lobbying on the Fine Print May Erase Consumer Protections

One of the provisions of the health reform law that insurers hate most requires that they spend at least 80 percent of what we pay them in premiums for actual medical care. That provision alone is a major reason why insurance companies and their allies invested so heavily in Republican candidates last year.

The insurers knew that if their candidates won—and most of them did—they would have a better than even chance of getting Congress to weaken that provision to …

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N.C. Consumer Advocates Seeing Red Over Bait and Switch by One of the Blues

RALEIGH, N.C. — Health insurers are demonstrating once again — this time in state capitals — that they cannot be trusted to do the right thing for consumers when health care reform is up for debate.

President Obama and Congressional leaders learned the hard way that insurance executives were playing them like a Stradivarius in promising to be good-faith partners on reform. In the end, though, the politicians realized that insurers had been carrying out a duplicitous PR strategy from …

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Insurers’ ‘Friends’ Will Influence Public Option Debate in Connecticut

As I noted Friday, health insurers in Connecticut will call on some of their longtime allies to help turn the public and state lawmakers against the idea of creating a state-run public option.

Legislators in Hartford are taking up the idea of doing just that today, as three legislative committees hold a joint public hearing on SustiNet, which they actually created in theory but didn’t fund in 2009. If implemented, SustiNet would provide a health care benefits package starting in …

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Fear and Loathing Over a Public Insurance Option in Hartford

This coming Monday morning, state lawmakers in Hartford, the nation’s insurance capital, will begin debate on implementing something insurers pulled out all the stops to kill at the national level — the so-called public option that would have created a government insurance program to compete with private carriers.

The setting has more than a bit of irony, since it was Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman whose opposition to the public option effectively assured it would not be part of the health …

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