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Duplicitous AHIP Ad and Their Man Michael Steele

The America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) trade group released a duplicitous ad today. The ad claims that AHIP’s big for-profit insurance clients want to make the word pre-existing condition a "thing of the past." In reality, AHIP represents an industry whose executives make fortunes off of the practice of purging chronically ill enrollees from health insurance plans. These absurd practices increase insurance company profits, and therefore stock prices, by decreasing the medical loss ratio of health insurance plans.

Health insurance executives are addicted to making a quick and cheap buck by shirking their responsibilities over things like previous bouts of acne. At a Congressional hearing earlier this month, health insurance executives to Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) that they "could not commit to ending the practice of rescinding policies do to newly discovered pre-existing conditions."

The LA Times reported that Stupak’s sub-committee uncovered evidence of blatant discrimination against the chronically ill by the big insurance companies AHIP represents:

"The committee investigation uncovered several rescission practices that one lawmaker called egregious, including targeting every policyholder diagnosed with leukemia, breast cancer and 1,400 other serious illnesses. Such investigations involve scouring the policyholder’s original application and years’ worth of medical and pharmacy records in search of any discrepancies.

"These practices reveal that when an insurance company receives a claim for an expensive, life-saving treatment, some of them will look for a way — any way — to avoid having to pay for it," said Stupak, chairman of the commerce committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations."

Enter South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, who thinks that protecting insurance company’s right to discriminate against patients is a way for Republican’s to bring about "Obama’s Waterloo." Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, attempting to aid the insurance industry’s goal of continuing discrimination against the chronically ill in America, butthen admitted that this was just a partisan food fight, and not about policy, when he said, "I don’t do policy."

Michael Steele is right this isn’t about policy–it is about people’s lives. According to studies, 11.4 million chronically ill Americans lack access to health insurance. Across America there are millions of stories of chronically ill Americans who are unable to afford the treatment they need to stay healthy.

Health care reform would eliminate the backwards incentives executives have; it would ban discrimination against chronically ill Americans and enable them to be productive members of society. Health care reform would keep tragic stories, like the story of Nikki White, from happening in the future. White was a Lupus patient who lost her insurance; she couldn’t afford the prescriptions and screenings which were needed to keep her illness in check. She ended up in a Tennessee hospital where nearly one million dollars was spent in a frantic effort to save her life. She died at the age of 32 of what her doctor termed as "complications secondary to a failed health care system."

Because insurance executives refuse to take stands against discrimination against the chronically ill; because insurances executives can’t walk away from the obscene profits of the low-road and the obscene wealth which comes with it; and because the insurance industry is spending $1.4 million a day trying to defeat a health care bill which would stop their abusive practices, AHIP’s latest television commercial is duplicitous. If insurance companies were serious about making the term pre-existing condition a "thing of the past," they would’ve committed to not rescinding policies in the future at Chairman Stupak’s hearing.

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