Health Care Reform Should Not Be Derailed By Litmus Test, Says Ignagni

America‘s Health Insurance Plans

Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), gave the following remarks at a media teleconference this morning:

“At this point in the summer of 2009, the country should be in the midst of a transformative national conversation about health care reform. Instead, a campaign has been launched to demonize health plans and the men and women who work hard every day in their communities to provide health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans.

“For a country that is trying to accomplish what it has failed to do for a century – pass health care reform – the same old Washington politics of ‘find an enemy and go to war’ is a major step backward, not a step forward. Indeed, this is the playbook of consultants, not consensus.

“Attacking our community will not help get anyone covered, nor will it help our country bend the cost curve and make care more affordable for working families and small businesses. These are the issues that should be the focus of a national conversation this summer. That is what the country expected. Not politics as usual, but an effort to forge the consensus that will be necessary to get reform passed.

“For our part, we will set the record straight about our community’s contribution to the reform effort. It was with the hope of helping to create a more constructive climate that health plans began three years ago to develop a set of reform proposals linked by common themes – to build on the strengths of the current system, provide all Americans with health security, ensure that no one falls through the cracks, and put the entire health care system on a financially sustainable path.

“In recent days, policymakers have embraced health insurance reform – the concept we proposed in 2008. Health plans were the first of the stakeholders to come to the table with a comprehensive proposal to reform our own sector. Our proposal brings everyone into the system, guarantees coverage for all Americans, does away with pre-existing condition limitations, and ends rating based on health status and gender.

“We also pledged to earn a seat at the table and our members have been good faith participants in every significant reform effort involving stakeholders from across the spectrum.

“That did not mean that we would sit at any table in silence when confronted with proposals we knew to be flawed. For months, we have explained why we believe a government-run plan would dismantle employer-based coverage, bankrupt local hospitals, and break the promise that if you like your present coverage, you can keep it.

“A government-run plan would inevitably rely on its price-setting ability to offer artificially low premiums – effectively subsidized by the private sector through cost shifting. This would force employers to drop their coverage, creating a death spiral for private insurance and financial catastrophe for many hospitals and doctors.

“Physicians, hospitals, employers, and concerned citizens have joined us in voicing these concerns. As the American people have learned the facts, support for a government-run plan has plummeted. In response, there has been an all-out effort to make support of a government-run program the litmus test for reform.

“If the intent is to place the nation on a path to a single-payer system, as some have recently acknowledged, then that question should be debated candidly and openly.

“We believe that is not the path that the American people support. Instead, they want policymakers to recognize that neither the government nor the private sector can fix health care alone and that the stakes are too high to revert to the usual Washington poll-driven playbook that has been a barrier to progress and could create another missed opportunity to achieve health care reform.

“The country is at a critical juncture. August will be the month when the country decides whether it supports reform and what shape it should take. It is crucial that the American people understand the broad consensus that exists on the essential building blocks for bipartisan reform.

“With that in mind, there are five facts we believe all Americans should know:

  • Health plans have proposed comprehensive health care reform to cover all Americans, make care more affordable, and improve quality.
  • Health plans proposed health insurance reform last year.
  • Health plans have proposed far-reaching initiatives to bend the health cost curve and make care more affordable for individuals, families, and employers.
  • Health plans are advocating and advertising in support of bipartisan reform.
  • Out of every dollar the nation spends on health care, one penny goes to health plan profits.

“Our community includes thousands of dedicated, conscientious Americans who are working hard across the country to try and improve health care. They are ordinary Americans from all walks of life who are raising their families and contributing to their communities. They do not deserve to be demonized or vilified as part of a campaign to distract attention away from the sinking support for a government-run program


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