Health Care Industry Will Lobby GOP To Strip Payment Board, Industry Taxes From Health Law

Wall Street Journal’s Janet Adamy and Jonathan Weisman offer some specific insights into why health insurers have been so heavily funding Republicans this election cycle and what they’re hoping to buy with the increased contributions:

Insurers want to reverse tax increases and loosen restrictions on insurance premiums, and several groups hope to tack on medical malpractice protections. […]

The insurance industry is working to persuade the next Congress to roll back a roughly $70 billion tax on insurance companies that takes effect in 2014, saying it will disproportionately hit small businesses that insure their workers. It also wants lawmakers to allow insurers to widen the rating bands that dictate how much more insurers can charge older customers.

Insurers also want to tackle the growth of health costs by enacting a new measure to give robust protections against medical malpractice lawsuits to doctors who follow certain “best practice” guidelines, said Karen Ignagni, the insurance industry’s top lobbyist.

“We always reach out to both sides of the political aisle and we’ll continue doing that because we have had concerns,” said Ms. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans. She said her group would be most focused on parts of the bill that it believes fail to lower the growth of health costs.

Recently, Ignagni also hinted that she would like to see Congress soften the employer responsibility provisions in the law, since the penalties could some employers to drop their existing employer-based coverage and send their workers into better regulated plans within the exchanges.

Of course, other sectors of the health industry — many of which cooperated with Democrats to pass reform — are also trying to weaken the law’s most important cost containment mechanism: The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). The American Hospital Association (AHA) and drug makers have their sights set on the board, which will begin recommending cuts to reduce the per-capita rate of growth in Medicare spending.

But some of the groups that cooperated with Democrats may have trouble influencing the expected Republican majority, the Washington Post reports. “Some businesses joined in on the hang-me-last strategy,” said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill). “I think upon reflection, in moments of candor, they may say they were foolish to do that.” House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), for instance, blasted PhRMA for cooperating with Democrats on reform and the group has been trying to patch up relations ever since.