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Insurance Industry Takes Off The Mask, Opposes Reform

This was known for a while, but Sam Stein nails it down:

A top lobbyist for the major private insurance industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), urged Congressional Republicans to not even consider helping Democrats pass health care reform lest they aid an “enemy who is down.”

Steve Champlin, a lobbyist for the Duberstein Group who represents AHIP, declared that the road to a bipartisan health care reform bill was, essentially, dead. And he urged GOP members to keep it that way.

“There is absolutely no interest, no reason Republicans should ever vote for this thing. They have gone from a party that got killed 11 months ago to a party that is rising today. And they are rising up on the turmoil of health care,” said Champlin. “So when they vote for a health care reform bill, whatever it is, they are giving comfort to the enemy who is down.”

“Long before the Republicans discovered that the House bill was a strategy to kill seniors and all that kind of stuff the plan was already unpopular,” he added, underscoring why Republicans shouldn’t attach themselves to the legislation.

Champlin got $400,000 from AHIP this year, so you can be pretty sure he speaks for them.

This has been a year in the making, as Jason Rosenbaum points out. The insurance industry has always offered a fig leaf of support, while in actuality spending their millions lobbying against anything that wouldn’t set up a profit bonanza for them, using astroturf campaigns, debunked reports, and even scare-seniors ads. All the while, they claimed to oppose things like rescission and denying coverage for pre-existing condition while continuing to employ them for the most frivolous and even offensive reasons. For example, denying children coverage based on their weight:

First, a Colorado baby was turned down for health insurance for being too big. Now, another Colorado child has been turned down for health insurance for being too small.

Just a week after TODAY highlighted the story of 4-month-old Alex Lange, who at 17 pounds was considered obese, the show presented Wednesday the equally curious case of 2-year-old Aislin Bates, who at 22 pounds was turned down for health insurance for not meeting a proposed insurer’s height and weight standards.

Or (seriously) determining that rape is a pre-existing condition:

Christina Turner feared that she might have been sexually assaulted after two men slipped her a knockout drug. She thought she was taking proper precautions when her doctor prescribed a month’s worth of anti-AIDS medicine.

Only later did she learn that she had made herself all but uninsurable […]

Turner, 45, who used to be a health insurance underwriter herself, said the insurance companies examined her health records. Even after she explained the assault, the insurers would not sell her a policy because the HIV medication raised too many health questions. They told her they might reconsider in three or more years if she could prove that she was still AIDS-free.

The insurance industry played a major role in creating the kind of system in this country that motivates people to join the Army in desperation so their family can get health care. And if anything, they want to make that system worse. It’s nice of them to actually say it out loud.

I don’t think advocates of reform should worry too much, though. As Paul Waldman points out in a great piece, this year, the insurance industry has been their own worst enemy.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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