AHIP’s Self-Serving Report on Health Bill Slammed

White House spokeswoman Linda Douglass called the report a “self-serving analysis” from an opponent of any kind of health insurance reform. “It comes on the eve of a vote that will reduce the industry’s profits,” Douglass told TPMDC. “It is hard to take it seriously. The analysis completely ignores critical policies will lower costs for those who have insurance, expand coverage and provide affordable health insurance options to millions of Americans who are priced out of today’s health insurance market or are locked out by unfair insurance company practices.” [TPM, 10/12/09]

Scott Mulhauser, a spokesman for Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee: “This report is untrue, disingenuous and bought and paid for by the same health insurance companies that have been gouging too many consumers for too long as they stand in the way of reform yet again.   Now that health care reform grows ever closer, these health insurers are breaking out the same, tired playbook of deception to prevent millions of Americans from getting the affordable, accessible care they need.  This report is pitching some seriously flawed analysis that nobody’s buying as it excludes all the provisions that will actually lower the cost of coverage – tax credits, grandfathering for existing policies, increased enrollment in private coverage and administrative savings from a more efficient mechanism for purchasing coverage.  It’s a health insurance company hatchet job, plain and simple.” [TPM, 10/12/09]

Ron Pollack, Executive Director of the consumer health organization Families USA: “Today’s criticism by the insurance lobby gives hypocrisy a bad name.  The insurance lobby now claims that health care reform will cause significant premium increases, conveniently forgetting that they imposed significant premium increases during the past decade that are making health coverage unaffordable for families and businesses.  In the decade of 2000 to 2009, average family insurance premiums for employer-based health coverage increased from $6,772 to $13,073—an increase of 93 percent while median worker earnings rose by only 19 percent.  As a result, premiums rose 4.9 times faster than earnings – even though those rising premiums purchased ‘thinner’ coverage with higher deductibles and copayments as well as fewer benefits.  The insurance lobby’s scare tactics are ironic and deplorable. They are like a poker player who complains about his hand when, in fact, he is the dealer.” [10/12/09]

AARP Executive Vice President John Rother told reporters Monday that he doesn’t think the report is “worth the paper it’s written on.” He said if anyone believes it, that’s a problem. [AP, 10/12/09]

Richard Kirsch, National Campaign Manager, Health Care for America Now: “This is a transparent attempt by the health insurance industry to sabotage reform. Of course they’re coming out with guns blazing at the 11th hour. They’re out to protect their money and their power, and they’ll go to any lengths – including circulating fake information – to stop real change.  The health insurance industry pretending that they care that premiums will go up is like the Yankees saying they are worried about hitting too many home runs. While there are problems with the Baucus bill, the health insurance industry is only sounding alarms now that the government is backing off from placing onerous fines on people who can’t afford the industry’s sky-high premiums.  The solution isn’t to do what the industry wants – force people to buy their overpriced insurance or pay a high fine. The solution is provide enough assistance to people to make health care affordable and to force the industry to compete with a public health insurance option so that they have to face real competition and lower their premiums.  While the insurance industry’s overall analysis is both wrong and self-serving, we would agree with one point it makes: placing a 40% tax on higher cost health care plans will only serve to raise premiums and out-of-pocket costs for families. Instead of taxing health care plans, Congress should raise revenues from households that earn more than $250,000.” [10/12/09]

Washington Post “The Insurance Industry’s Deceptive Report”: The report was farmed out to the consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has something of a history with this sort of thing: In the early-’90s, the tobacco industry commissioned PWC to estimate the economic devastation that would result from a tax on tobacco. The report was later analyzed by the Arthur Andersen Economic Consulting group, which concluded that “the cumulative effect of PW’s methods … is to produce patently unreliable results.” It’s perhaps no surprise that the patently unreliable results were all in the tobacco industry’s favor. He who pays the piper names the tune, and all that.  All that makes it a bit hard to respond to this analysis. Seriously engaging with its methodology probably gives it more credit than it deserves, making this seem like an argument between two opposing sides as opposed to a predictable industry hit job. But totally ignoring its claims means some of them might live unchallenged. In short, the insurance industry is getting scared. After many months of quiet constructiveness, they’re launching a broadside on the week of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote. The White House, which had a pleasant meeting with the industry’s leadership last week, was shocked by the report, and so too was the Senate Finance Committee. The era of cooperation seems to be over, and they weren’t given much advance warning. But the report might have another impact, too: The evident anger and fear of the insurance industry might do a bit to reassure liberals that this plan is worth supporting, after all. [10/12/09]

The New Republic “AHIP Claim on Benefits Tax ‘Implausible’”: MIT economist Jonathan Gruber is one of the most well-respected experts in this field–somebody whose modeling has wide credibility, even among Republicans.  He looked at the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report and tells me that he finds that set of claims “implausible.”  The particulars, for those who want to get into the weeds, have to do with PriceWaterhouseCoopers assumptions about regional variation. To arrive at their figures, they assume that average premiums in some parts of the country would exceed the national average by about twice the national average. But the best available data we have, from government surveys and the Kaiser Family Foundation, suggest that average premiums exceed the national average by, at most, around 20 percent. The idea that the variation would somehow explode up to 100 percent, during a period in which reform will likely reduce national variation, is pretty hard to swallow. [10/12/09]