This afternoon, during an interview with Bloomberg Radio, Karen Ignagni — the President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) — criticized lawmakers for vilifying the insurance industry and reiterated insurers’ commitment to reforming the health insurance marketplace. “Our members have worked now for three years to contribute to the debate, to put insurance market reform squarely on the table…We’re for it. We understand how to do it, and we’ve been leading the charge and urging members of Congress to move forward,” Ignagni, the industry’s top lobbyist, stressed:
That’s what people want. They want to be in. They don’t want to be rejected because of preexisting conditions, and they want to make sure they have continuity of care. We’ve committed to that. That’s what our industry is doing. We are one of the first to step up and offer real change that affected our industry. And we’re still committed to that.
While the insurance industry has publicly supported regulations that would guarantee everyone coverage and outlaw pre-exising condition exclusions, Ignagni may be overstating the industry’s commitment to so-called “market reform.” On June 16th, despite Ignagni pledges of commitment, insurance executives from UnitedHealth Group, Assurant, and WellPoint specifically refused to “commit” to ending the controversial practice of rescinding coverage after an applicant files a medical claim.
Watch a compilation of Ignagni’s claim and insurers’ refusal to end rescission:
In its investigation of insurer practices, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations concluded that far from “leading the charge” on reform, Assurant Health, UnitedHealth Group, and WellPoint have rescinded policies for almost 20,000 individual insurance policyholders” and avoided paying more than $300 million in medical claims” over the last five years. From its review of case files, the Committee identified “a variety of abuses by insurance companies, including”:
- Conducting investigations with an eye toward rescission in every case in which a policyholder submits a claim relating to leukemia, breast cancer, or any of a list of 1,400 serious or costly medical conditions;
- Rescinding policies based on an alleged failure to disclose a health condition entirely unrelated to the policyholder’s current medical problem;
- Rescinding policies based on policyholders’ failure to disclose a medical condition that their doctors never told them about;
- Rescinding policies based on innocent mistakes by policyholders in their applications; and
- Rescinding coverage for all members of a family based on a failure to disclose a medical condition of one family member.
As former health insurance executive Wendell Potter argues, insurers seek to “drive down” costs by refusing to insure “unhealthy people,” a tactic borne out by the fact that 47 million Americans currently lack health insurance. The “insurance industry has been one of the most successful, in beating back any kinds of legislation that would hinder or affect the profitability of the companies,” said Potter, the former head of Corporate Communications at health insurance giant CIGNA.