During the White House Health Summit, AHIP CEO Karen 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.”
Indeed, this year, the industry has portrayed itself as a proponent of comprehensive health reform and its health care proposal has generated a slew of positive media coverage. But some still question the industry’s sincerity. Will AHIP support health care reform that lowers the industry’s profit margins, and will the insurance industry sacrifice profits for progress, these critics ask?
The industry’s opposition to Illinois State Representative Gregg Harris’ (D-Chicago) effort to pass legislation regulate the individual insurance market may begin to answer these questions.
Recently, the Illinois House passed ‘The Health Insurance Consumer Protection Act (House Bill 3923),’ a bill designed to regulate the state’s ‘Wild West’ individual health market. The act requires insurance companies to “spend at least 75% of premium dollars on medical care rather than on executive salaries,” establishes an office to conduct “external independent reviews of denied claims and rate increases” and simplifies “the complicated application process for both individual and small group markets by creating a standard application.”
ThinkProgress spoke with Harris, who explained that while the insurance industry initially supported his efforts, it opposed the actual legislation:
It’s the same kind of language they’ve talked about at the national level: “We could be supportive of some of this stuff if there was an individual mandate,” and “we’re willing to talk and negotiate and talk about parts of the bill.” But when it came time for the vote, they were out in pretty strong opposition. Every procedural trick in the book was used to stall it and derail it on the last day, but we got it through.
Reform on the national level “is going to be very difficult,” Harris explained. “You’re really going to have to stand up to some powerful interests to get done and people are going to have to make a decision. Where are your votes going to be as a legislator? Are they going to be to protect consumers, or are they going to be to protect an industry giant?”
The Health Insurance Consumer Protection Act will now move to the Senate where, Harris predicts, “the opposition will be just as strong.”
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