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CAHI Says Health Insurers Are Not the 'Problem'

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Aug. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Dr. Merrill Matthews, executive director of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), released the following statement:

After months of several health care industry groups bending over backward to work with the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress on health care reform, the Democrats have apparently decided to make a pariah out of one (at least for now) of those groups: health insurers.

"Of course they've been immoral all along in how they have treated the people that they insure," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quoted last week as saying. "They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way."

One might have thought all that industry willingness to work closely with Congress and the administration would have earned a little respect. Apparently not.

And these aren't the ramblings of some rogue politician, nor are they off-the-cuff gaffes. I received some internal Democratic strategy memos last week; attacking health insurers is official Democratic policy now.

Democrats are losing their effort to dramatically restructure the health care system -- not just the health insurance industry -- and they have made a political decision to villainize health insurers in hopes of recapturing their earlier momentum.

Well, CAHI intends to defend the health insurance industry, which has been paying health care bills -- about $616 billion in 2008, according to the actuarial firm Milliman -- saving lives and protecting families' assets for decades. And, of course, picking up the cost shift from Medicare and Medicaid underpayments.

The vast majority of health insurers, the people working for them, and the agents who sell their products are dedicated professionals who, unlike most members of Congress and the Obama administration, actually understand the health care delivery and financing systems.

These folks dedicate their lives to making a difference, and those efforts appear in poll after poll showing that the large majority of Americans like their health coverage. It is outrageous that a group of politicians now plan to ridicule and demonize health insurance professionals and agents for no other reason than to pass legislation that won't solve the fundamental problems while costing the country more than a trillion dollars.

Had the Democratic leadership and the Obama administration wanted to simply address the problem of the uninsured, they could have done it with wide bipartisan and public support. Had they wanted to address health insurance access problems or growing health care costs, they could have done it with wide bipartisan and public support.

But they have taken an opportunity to pass needed reforms and turned it into a wish list of everything they could pack in a bill with the hope of slipping it by the public with little or no scrutiny. That plan has backfired. Indeed the public has turned on the plan, so the plan creators are turning on health insurers in an effort to deflect the anger.

Health insurers are not the "problem," as Speaker Pelosi asserts, and they certainly aren't "villains." They have done their best to play a constructive role. What's killing health care reform is the cost and scope of change she and the president are demanding, and the fact that almost everything they claim will improve the health care system will actually make it worse. If the Speaker wants to find a villain in health care reform, she might start with her own party's proposal.

Founded in 1992, CAHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy association whose mission is to promote access, affordability and choice in American health care. CAHI's membership includes health insurance companies (active in the individual, small group, HSA and senior markets), small businesses, physicians, actuaries and insurance producers and brokers.

SOURCE Council for Affordable Health Insurance
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