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Lobbyist Cat Fight over Health Care Reform: PhRMA vs. AHIP

harry_louise_image.thumbnail.jpgAs the Obama health care summit gets under way today a bit of a schism is erupting, with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) on one side and and insurance industry lobbying outfit America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) on the other.

Short story: AHIP is unhappy that Obama’s plan calls for reduced payments to Medicare Advantage, which will save taxpayers $175 billion over the next decade:

"Unfortunately, this proposal would force seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage to fund a disproportionate share of the costs to reform the health care system," Ignagni said, adding that AHIP will work to help develop a health reform plan. "A cut of this scale would jeopardize the health security of more than 10 million seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage and would turn back the clock on innovative payment incentives to improve the quality of care that patients receive."

Note the bolded text (mine). Not exactly the message that PhRMA would like to have out there, as they are actually pretty happy that the plan won’t include price controls on prescription drugs but rather discounts on drugs bought through Medicaid. On balance, they figure with expanded coverage they’ll make out pretty well.

So, what does PhRMA think of AHIP’s ploy to drum up opposition by fearmongering among old people? I put that question to David Seldin, an advisor for PhRMA authorized to speak on their behalf. His response:

People who are interested in health care reform need to be focused on building support for the President’s efforts right now. This is the time for coming together, not engaging in the kind of scare tactics we all resorted to in the past.

Whoa. Well, since AHIP’s previous incarnation was the HIAA, which produced the famous (and highly successful) "Harry & Louise" ads of the 90s, I think we all know what that means.

Since health insurers already set limits on any drug’s potential profitability by determining which ones their plans will and won’t cover (when I had cancer, Blue Cross refused to cover many that I needed — cost me a fortune), I suppose this kind of battle in a climate of limited health care resources was only a matter of time. But if financial self-interest incentivizes them to police each other’s PR tactics, I have no problem with that.

A call to AHIP for a response hasn’t yet been returned.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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