Pollack Explains Health Coalition: ‘If The Ultimate Question Is Where Did I Hammer Karen Ignagni, That’s Not What Happened’

Six months ago, a diverse group of stakeholders — Families USA, NFIB, Business Roundable, America’s Health Insurance Plans, PhRMA, among others — began holding a series of Health Reform Dialogues to, as they put it, “create a forum outside of the political arena for exchanging views on tough policy issues.”

Last week, the group released a document spelling out “a number of policy approaches where they reached consensus” and pledged to work with lawmakers and each other to support the enactment of comprehensive reform this year.

The group called for expanding income eligibility levels for Medicaid, providing tax credits for more affordable coverage, improving prevention and care coordination and ensuring that “all Americans purchase or otherwise obtain health insurance.” But the strange-bedfellow coalition skirted some of the more controversial issues of health reform such as “whether a government-run health plan should be available to compete with private companies” or whether the government should require employers to offer coverage.

Two labor unions abandoned the coalition after the group couldn’t agree on a public option and one participant in the conversation said the group’s recommendations were “[a] day late and a dollar short.”

Yesterday, in a wide ranging discussion about health care reform, ThinkProgress asked Families USA President and CEO Ron Pollack to respond to critics who question the value of broad-based coalitions:

I don’t think this is designed to say, ‘Hey, you gave this, you gave that.’ What is at the heart of the process is to try to figure out where is there common ground that is clearly going to be part of the debate.…in the process, it I think we found that unlike past debates where you didn’t even have these conversations and you couldn’t even identify where you actually agreed, that there was this assumption one group was totally for good stuff, or another group is totally in favor of bad stuff, and there’s nothing in between. If the ultimate question is where did I hammer [AHIP President and CEO] Karen Ignagni over the head and get her to yell, ‘I give up! I give up!’ that’s not what happened.

Watch it:

Pollack argued that the group’s pledge to expand access to coverage by subsidizing coverage for poor Americans and expanding access to Medicaid could cover up-to 90 percent of the uninsured, and pushed back against critics who argue that the group’s recommendations are a boon to insurance industry profits. “I think having AHIP engage in a way that is designed to enable insurance market reform to take place in a way that fits their business model, but yet helps people who are currently shut out of the healtchare system — I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Pollack explained.

Pollack predicted an 80% success rate and suggested that the major stakeholders would not oppose the whole of health care reform (but may run ads criticizing certain aspects of the proposal). Ultimately, everyone will have to come to the table to achieve bipartisan reform, Pollack said. “The first attempt will be made to try to do this in a bipartisan fashion. But it takes two to tango. And we saw with the economic recovery legislation, we didn’t have two folks tangoing. You had one doing a tango and the other doing a break-dance, and so that didn’t quite work,” Pollack explained.


Family USA’s blog, Stand Up For Health Care, has more on the Health Reform Dialogue here.

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