AHIP Decries Demonization of Private Health Insurance

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , August 4, 2009

The lead lobbyist for health insurance companies complained today that her industry is being "demonized" in the healthcare reform debate.

Karen Ignagni, president/CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, was careful not to directly accuse President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress of leading the effort. Instead, she decried "the same old Washington politics of ‘find an enemy and go to war.'"

"Attacking our community will not help get anyone covered, nor will it help our country bend the cost curve and make care more affordable for working families and small businesses," Ignagni says. "These are the issues that should be the focus of a national conversation this summer. That is what the country expected. Not politics as usual, but an effort to forge the consensus that will be necessary to get reform passed."

Last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was blunt in her assessment of the health insurance industry, calling them "the villains" in the health reform battle.

"The public option–that's where the insurance companies are making their attacks––it's almost immoral what they are doing," Pelosi told reporters. "Of course they've been immoral all along. They are villains in this. They have been part of the problem in a major way. They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening and the public has to know. They had a good thing going for a long time at the expense of the American people and the health of our country. This is the fight of our lives."

President Obama has also shifted his rhetoric slightly, moving away from promoting "healthcare reform" in his stump speeches and town hall meetings toward "health insurance reform" to tap into what some observers say is a poll-tested understanding of the public's deep-seated animosity toward the health insurance industry.

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