Health Care Experts Release Statement on Misleading AHIP Report

Under CAP’s auspices, a group of leading health care experts released the following statement today regarding AHIP’s misleading hit-job on health reform:

Recently America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a study that claims the reform plan being developed by the Senate Finance Committee would dramatically raise the cost of health insurance. We believe the study is flawed and that the results are not credible.

The AHIP study is misleading in several ways. First, it ignores critical elements of the insurance market reforms in the Senate Finance Committee bill that would protect people from many of the problems AHIP purports to analyze; it would grandfather existing coverage, provide reinsurance and risk-adjustment, and introduce special policies for young adults. More importantly, the AHIP study ignores the many provisions in the Senate Finance Committee’s reform plan that would help to streamline medical care delivery and reduce its cost, including changes in payment methods, provisions to encourage use of information technology and comparative effectiveness, and the establishment of insurance exchanges to lower the administrative costs associated with health insurance. In fact, one of the policies that AHIP criticizes, the imposition of taxes on ‘Cadillac health plans’ would, in the view of most economists, be a powerful force to reduce the cost of health care. Finally, it is important to note that most of the spending in the draft legislation will go for subsidies that directly lower the cost of health insurance for families and individuals with low or modest income. The report simply ignores this massive source of savings for millions of American households.

Important issues are at stake in health reform. There is ample room for legitimate debate. But responsible participants in that debate should avoid selective use of evidence and try to preserve analytic balance.

The signatories are Henry J. Aaron (Brookings), David Cutler (Harvard), Judy Feder (Georgetown and CAP), Elliot Fisher (Dartmouth Medical School), Arnold Milstein (UCSF School of Medicine), Len Nichols (New America), and Meredith Rosenthal (Harvard).

Politically, one can hold out hope that AHIP’s slam will actually improve things. Max Baucus bent over backwards to produce a version of reform that’s friendly to the interests of insurance companies. If they’re seen as stabbing him in the back nonetheless, then one hopes his level of interest in protecting them from a public option will wane. And if House progressives can get their way on a robust public option, then it seems more likely that they could be persuaded to let Baucus have his way on the excise tax issue. That would get the final legislation on the right side of two of the most contentious points.