Health Insurers To GOP: Don’t Repeal The Health Reform Law

I’ve been tracking the health industry’s reaction to the GOP’s repeal rhetoric because I suspect that Republicans will be more influenced by lobbyists than grassroots tea partiers. And therein lies the conflict. Because unlike small-government activists, most in the health industry are opposed to repeal, as Reuters’ Susan Heavey found out after speaking to health insurance CEOs at the Reuters Health Summit:

Company executives at the Reuters Health Summit this week said the law is far from perfect and said they will push for more steps to tackle stagnant health information technology and skyrocketing costs. But after two years of debate over the issue, they need to move forward with clear steps on how to realign their businesses.

The new healthcare law created “a stable, predictable environment, however painful it has been in the short term,” GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Chief Strategy Officer David Redfern said at the summit in New York. […]

Even insurers, which were vilified by Democrats in passing the reforms, said they don’t want a repeal, even as they push for clarity on forthcoming rules and seek additional changes.

Cigna Corp CEO David Cordani and Aetna Inc President Mark Bertolini both urged the nation to move forward on the overhaul. […]

Kris Jenner, portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price Healthcare Sciences Fund, said having Republicans in greater power should reduce pressure on industry. “That level … negative rhetoric is likely to be scaled back. And from a stock level, that is a positive,” he said.

The successful passage of health reform ended a period of business uncertainty for insurers and brought about a mostly favorable law that the industry can live with and even “improve” with the help of House Republicans. Former industry insider Wendell Potter described their goal this way, in my interview with him on Monday:

POTTER: I think they have to realize that they’re better off with this. Their business models were not sustainable without reform.

They lost their means of being able to control costs like they felt they could do at the beginning of the managed care era. There was such a push back, they lost a lot of their leverage with providers, certainly with consumers. Their magic bullet now is to shift costs to consumers. You can’t keep doing that. It’s not sustainable over the long haul. You would continue to have more and more uninsured and underinsured because of the cost-shifting. You can’t keep doing that, people will ultimately decide that the coverage is not worth buying. So they have to have reform, they needed to have this infusion of new revenue [from the mandate].