America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the lobbying juggernaut for the health insurance industry, hosted its annual conference at the Ritz Carlton this week. As a vote on health legislation nears, the industry announced yesterday that it is funding a new round of national ads aimed at killing reform. The insurance industry has attacked every version of health reform thus far, from the Senate Finance bill, to the bill that passed the House already, to measures proposed by the White House. On a call with investors, Goldman Sachs detailed how health insurers would benefit the most from not passing any health reform all.
Even if reform passes, political attack groups funded by big business, like the Club for Growth, and Republicans are promising to repeal health legislation, rescinding coverage for over 30 million Americans and perpetuating widespread industry abuses. In addition to leaders like Newt Gingrich (who is funded by AHIP and other insurers), National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and dozens of GOP House and Senate leaders have pledged to repeal health reform if they are successful in the midterm elections.
ThinkProgress caught up with Robert Zirkelbach, the spokesman for AHIP, after a press briefing at the conference to ask about the GOP effort to repeal health reform. Zirkelbach carefully dodged the question directly, but left the door open to possibly supporting such an effort in the future:
TP: Let’s say the current reform bills you’ve registered disapproval with, let’s say they pass in their current form. Would you support a Republican effort, the Republican campaign promise to repeal some or all of the bill?
ZIRKELBACH: I’m not going to speculate about health reform legislation, what’s going to happen after, when we haven’t seen the current bill. I think we’re a ways a way [crosstalk] I’m not going to begin to speculate about whats going to happen.
Yesterday at the AHIP conference, Steve ErkenBrack, a health insurance executive from Colorado, mused about what it would take for political leaders to stop the “demonization” of insurers. He then suggested that insurance company executives had to simply “wait until November [elections] get passed,” presumably when the GOP either retakes Congress or a large number of seats. Listen here:
As ThinkProgress has documented, AHIP has waged a two-faced campaign to kill reform. Understanding that health insurers are unpopular, AHIP has tried to defray potential criticism by telling the administration and the public that “this time” the industry will fully support health reform. However, insurers have quietly been working behind closed doors to kill health reform, secretly funding $20 million plus in attack ads, orchestrating a far right effort to declare reform unconstitutional, and directing employees to attend rowdy anti-health reform protests.