With the release of AHIP's major advertising effort aimed at derailing the fast-tracked healthcare reform train, more attention is being payed to their role in killing healthcare reform back in 1994 (remember Harry and Louise?) and their major pushback against Michael Moore's film, SiCKO.
Think Progress reports that memos leaked to PBS by former CIGNA executive Wendell Potter show just how closely their fight against Moore mirrors their attempt to kill the public option in healthcare reform now.
Now, as Congress moves into high-gear for reforming health care, AHIP appears be positioning itself to defeat a public option by using the same playbook they used against Moore in 2007. The AHIP anti-Moore memo similarly states:
Define the Health Insurance Industry as Part of the Solution ... Spread the word about ‘proactive solutions’ for health care ... Highlight the value of managed care ... A Debate We Can Win: Improving U.S. System Versus Enacting Government-Run Care
This week, AHIP released a new feel-good ad that posits private insurance as the cure to America’s health care crisis, along with a statement reaffirming that Congress must enact reform "without creating a government run plan" to compete with insurers. Similar to its message against Moore, the narrator for the new AHIP ad declares that "we’re America’s Health Insurance Companies, supporting bipartisan reforms....
A central strategy of the anti-Moore memo is described as: "Focus on Our Reform Proposals While Patients and Allies Make the Case Against Government-Run Care." The allies were instructed to "showcase victims and horrors of government-run systems" and "bring victims of single-payer systems to the US for a media tour." Indeed, while AHIP has made significant efforts this year to portray itself as "for reform" without a public option, it has left allied groups to do the dirty work.
Along with their happy, pablum ads, AHIP is putting out a lot of disinformation in the debate, as a terrific article in WaPo details.
[T]he leader of the health insurance lobby has sent lawmakers a message: Be careful what you change, because "77 percent of Americans are satisfied with their existing health insurance coverage."
Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), invoked the statistic to argue against the creation of a government-run health insurance option. But the polls aren't that simple, and her assertion reveals how the industry's effort to defend its turf has led it to cherry-pick the facts.
The poll Ignagni was citing actually undercuts her position: By 72 to 20 percent, Americans favor the creation of a public health insurance plan, the June survey by the New York Times and CBS News found. People also said they thought government would do a better job than private insurers of holding down health-care costs and providing medical coverage....
The industry's stance against a public health plan revives shades of 1994, when it was instrumental in blocking President Bill Clinton's health-care proposals.
"A government-run plan would turn back the clock on efforts to improve the quality and safety of patient care," AHIP has argued. Such a plan "will ultimately limit choices and access," the big insurer WellPoint contends.
But systemic problems have persisted over the past 15 years, and it isn't clear how much private insurers have done, or can do, to solve them.
"Health plans have implemented programs that are driving innovation, promoting quality and value, and helping to bring efficiency and cost savings to the health-care delivery system," AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach said.
Alan Sager, a professor of health policy and management at Boston University, sees it differently.
"Insurers promise choice, they promise innovation, they promise a lot of things, but I think they've delivered very little," Sager said. "I think net they give us very bad value for the 10 to 20 percent share of the health dollar they skim off the top."
Instead of choice, they offer "the illusion of choice," he said.
The entire article is worth reading, as it debunks point by point the inconsistencies and half-truths in AHIP's efforts against a public option in healthcare reform. AHIP is well practiced at this, since they've been at it since 1994. But after 15 years of this, is the American public really going to buy the idea that they have choice, access, or health security with the status quo.