Insurers Worry A Romney Victory Would Threaten Health Industry

Health insurance CEOs haven’t always been the biggest proponent of President Obama’s health care reform law, but that doesn’t mean they’re excited about the possibility of Mitt Romney repealing Obamacare in its entirety if he wins next week’s election. In fact, as the Associated Press reports, insurers are increasingly wary of the prospect of a Romney victory.

Despite the false conservative talking point that Obamacare puts a strain on the economy, industry analysts predict that the health reform law will be good for insurers’ bottom lines once it is fully in effect. Obamacare’s expansion of the Medicaid program, for example, could be a huge boon for the private insurance industry as new Medicaid beneficiaries enroll in plans with commercial insurance companies. And now that major insurers like UnitedHealth Group and BlueCross Blue Shield have already invested millions of dollars in implementing Obamacare — and expect to profit off that investment when they gain additional customers under the health reform law — they aren’t eager to see the law repealed.

Most troubling for the insurance industry is the uncertain prospect of a partial repeal. If a Romney administration repeals just some of Obamacare’s key provisions while leaving others in place, insurers worry that the health reform law will be entirely unsustainable, causing premium costs to skyrocket:

Things could get grim for the industry if Republicans succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies and mandates, but leave standing its requirement that insurers cover people with health problems. If that’s the outcome, the industry fears people literally could get health insurance on the way to the emergency room, and that would drive up premiums.

“There are a lot of dollars and a lot of staff time that’s been put into place to make this thing operational,” G. William Hoagland, until recently a Cigna vice president, said of the health care law.

Insurers “are not going to be out there saying, ‘Repeal, repeal, repeal,'” said Hoagland, who oversaw public policy at the health insurance company. “They will probably try to find the particular provisions that cause them heartburn, but not throw the baby out with the bath water.” […]

“I spend a lot of time in executive offices and board rooms, and they are good Republicans who would like to see Romney win,” said [Robert Laszewski, an industry consultant and blogger]. “But they are scared to death about what he’s going to do.”

Industry officials’ primary concern about a potential Romney administration is that the presidential candidate has offered few details about what his alternative to Obamacare would look like, despite the fact that he has pledged to repeal the law on his first day in office. There is no consensus on the issue among Republicans in Congress, either.