Showdown on health care reform rules?

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It’s going to be consumer advocates vs. a large scrum of health insurance company lobbyist in Seattle for the next several days at the summer meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. In advance of that, we’ve asked for an investigation of what insurers are up to. The NAIC is writing proposed regulations to govern important chunks of national health care reform, particularly how much money actually gets spent on health care rather than profit and outsized executive salaries, and how much scrutiny insurance premiums will get. The group’s staff and members face a hail of lobbying and lawsuit threats from insurers.

I’m headed there and will report on the happenings.

On Thusday, Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Media and Democracy sent a letter to the Obama admistration, reporting on more maneuvering by insurance companies to reduce their proportion of health care spending. Since it’s all going on behind executive suite doors, we’ve asked the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate, and publish the details.

We’ve also objected to some late changes in regulatory proposals that we thought were settled. The changes mostly favored insurers, unsurprisingly–letting them reclassify more and more administrative expenses as health care. That makes it easy for them to meet new requirements for the proportion of premium dollars that go to health care rather than administration.

But the fight isn’t over. Frankly, the insurance companies sound like onetime Ford executive Lee Iacocca, when he predicted in the 1970’s that installing antipollution devices in cars would ruin the auto industry and crash the whole American economy. Remember how none of those predictions came true, and the pollution controls cleaned the air?

Insurers are making the same kind of Chicken Little the-sky-is-falling predictions. If they could see the benefits of innovation and efficiency, they could turn all that lobbying energy into a better health system and a different form of competition.  

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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