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Health insurers vs. health-care reform

You know, I keep hearing what a gift the health-care law is to the insurance industry, and then I read that they're donating tens of millions of dollars to groups trying to elect candidates pledging to repeal the legislation, and then millions and millions more to individual Republican legislators who've pledged to repeal the law. It's all very confusing.

By Ezra Klein  | October 5, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
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People often do a poor job of judging what is in their own interests. Medicare was bitter opposed by the medical establishment, yet has been a major reason that many doctors (esp. ones that do PROCEDURES like coronary bypasses, as opposed to actually providing CARE, like geriatricians) have become members of the wealthiest 1 percent. However, you have to wonder about an industry whose very existence is supposedly justified by its ability to allocate risk, but which cannot make a reasoned assessment of the likely impacts of a change in legislation.

OTOH, I do have some sympathy for the industry in that the half-assed nature of the legislation does leave them vulnerable to manipulation and free-riding issues.

Posted by: guesswhosue | October 5, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Their stated goal in your second link is to preserve and actually strengthen the individual mandate, and to repeal all the consumer protections like the ban on lifetime limits, the medical loss ratio requirements, etc. You can either engage with that or write a line of snark. Either way, it's clear that insurance companies are pretty much down with having people forced to buy their product.

Posted by: dday212 | October 5, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

It's not uncommon for cheerleaders to become confused.

Posted by: johninflorida | October 5, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

just like anything else you get differing view from different companies.

In the end its not a gift. Its working on razor thin margins that have already had players leave the market (Pru left healthcare entirely recently).

Sure you'll get liberals pointing to million dollar CEO salaries but that only is meant to throw people off to the real problem of cost of care.

oh and guesswhosue have you ever seen medicare's reimbursement levels? The only reason many doctors participate with medicare is becuase its a captive market. There is no money there for doctors that makes them the top 1%. They get to the top 1% by private insurers, over-utilization and other business interests like owning their own surgery centers that bypass laws meant to protect the consumer but in effect raising their individual profits.

All in all the closest to the truth is the latimes article although more should be pushed on the cost issue.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 5, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Maybe its because Kathleen Sebeleus is trying to bludgeon health insurance companies every chance she gets.

Health insurance companies started dropping child-only policies because they were logistically impossible and the morons at HHS went on a hissy fit.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 5, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

It really shouldn't be ever confusing when trends show an industry's money going to the party expected to win. Look where the industry's money went in 2006 and 2008. Lobbies are nothing if not pragmatic.

Posted by: raylehmann | October 5, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

It is not that confusing, actually, if you compare the interests of individuals and the industry, never mind the general public. As recently as 1995 insurance companies were spending about 92% of revenue on claims, and by this year they are down to 80%. The infamous, by now, McDonald's policy does not qualify because they are spending less than 80%. In short, though with the reform the INDUSTRY will have millions of new customers, the EXECUTIVES of the industry will be able to pocket a somewhat smaller share of the pot.

Hence the executives are opposing the reform.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | October 5, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Of course it's all just a big ruse. The millions and millions of dollars insurance companies are spending to support repeal is just a trick to get people off the scent. They ACTUALLY want the bill the stay intact but they just can't say that so they have to throw their own money down the toilet and hope that enough Republicans don't win to result in repeal.

You see, only Jane Hamsher has it all figured out. Hey Ezra, were YOU the co-producer of "Permanent Midnight" and "From Hell"?

Didn't think so. I rest my case.

Posted by: vvf2 | October 5, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

raylehmann: Good hypothesis, but it's actually not true. In 2006, the health, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries all supported Republicans by a factor of about 2:1. That's despite expectations that Democrats would likely win back one or both houses of Congress.

See here:

Posted by: vvf2 | October 5, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Republicans aren't looking to overturn health care reform. They're looking to perform the death by a thousand paper cuts. They're going to keep the mandates that make health insurance companies money and they'll gut the protections that cost health insurance companies money. And all the while, Republicans will be saying, "See, I told you health care reform was a bad idea." And everyone will nod their sage head in agreement.

Posted by: jpeg | October 5, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Regardless of whether or not the health care reform that was passed was a "gift", I think both insurers and progressives tend to see the Affordable Care Act as a step towards stronger reform. It's a lot more difficult to imagine a public option, much less single payer, starting from a pre-reform scratch than it is when working with the ACA as a starting point. Hence insurer efforts to roll it back.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 5, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Even more confusing is that the #1 HCR issue that GOP teabaggers want repealed is the 1 thing the BigInsurance wants to keep and even have strengthened: the individual mandate. That tells me there will be no repeal, period.

Posted by: jswarren | October 5, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

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