Today, ThinkProgress interviewed Time reporter Karen Tumulty at the White House Health Summit. Tumulty, who just published a personal account about the disadvantages of purchasing health insurance in the individual market, attended a break-out session with America’s Health Insurance Plans CEO Karen Ignagni. According to Tumulty and pool accounts from the session, Ignagi proposed to outsource health care reform to an independent commission:
The break-out session that I was just at, in fact, Karen Ignangi made one of the more radical specific proposals, which is to take most of this out of the hands of Congress, set up a commission sort of like the Base Closing Commission, to come up with a plan and present it to Congress on a sort-of take it or leave it basis.
Ignagni’s proposal is revealing. With Democrats running the major health reform committees — Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) at Senate Finance, Henry Waxman (D-CA) at Committee on Energy and Commerce — the insurance industry probably believes that it can get a better deal out of (and have more influence over) some kind of commission.
AHIP, which strongly opposed President Clinton’s plan, remains publicly committed to comprehensive health care reform. At today’s summit, Ignagni told the president, “we understand that we have to earn a seat at the table…you have our commitment, to play, to contribute and to pass health care reform this year.” Still, the industry opposes key parts of Obama’s health care proposal and it’s unclear if it’s willing to sacrifice profits for progress. (Coincidentally, Tumulty’s article describes how insurance companies game the individual market to avoid paying-out large claims.)
As Tumulty suggested, “I think we’re all going to learn over the next few months, how and whether the environment really has changed all that much since 1994.”