Insurance Industry Leads Late Assault on Health Care Reform
Byline: S.A. Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The insurance industry came off the bench too late in the game to block Senate Finance Committee approval Tuesday of a health care overhaul bill, but its failed eleventh-hour assault was a harbinger of attacks to come from once-dormant interest groups as Democratic leaders begin assembling a final package of reforms.
An array of lobbies with financial stakes in the remake of the health care system - including labor unions, pharmaceutical companies and the health insurance industry - are preparing to torpedo specific provisions in the plans, though each group says it generally supports President Obama's effort.
The unions are running full-page newspaper ads Wednesday criticizing the bill for forgoing a government-run insurance option and taxing high-end, or Cadillac, health insurance plans.
Drugmakers are angling to head off proposals for expanded price fixing of medicine and medical services.
America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry's lobby, fired the first shot in what is expected to be an extensive campaign with a report released on the eve of the Finance Committee vote that showed new taxes in the legislation would result in higher premiums for all consumers - as much as $4,000 higher over the next decade.
Senate Democrats and other overhaul supporters quickly moved to discredit the report, which was prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, trying to beat back the lobby that in 1993 helped derail President Clinton's health care overhaul with Harry and Louise TV ads.
The administration slammed the report for ignoring the bill's cost-saving measures and by demonizing the insurance industry, a strategy initiated by liberal activist groups and top Democrats last month while the insurers mostly stayed on the sidelines.
It is astounding that an industry which has made so many billions off the backs of hardworking American families would lecture anyone on health care costs, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. The American people won't be bullied into inaction by rhetoric and scare tactics that simply fall flat.
AHIP also started airing a TV ad Monday in several key states that warns seniors that cuts to the Medicare Advantage program will result in fewer benefits for them. Is it right to ask 10 million seniors on Medicare Advantage for more than their fair share? the ad asks.
The ad buy, which reportedly cost at least $1 million, reflects the high stakes in the health care overhaul. Millions more in ads are expected from the insurers as well as a deluge of phone calls and e-mails from citizens in a grass-roots network long established by the health insurance lobby.
The committee approval of the bill, with support from Sen. …