Health Insurance Industry’s Latest Double-Cross

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Just in case anyone thought the insurance companies couldn’t sink any lower, they’ve made yet another sleazy move in the ongoing battle over health care reform. This morning, American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the main industry shill group, announced a new “report” warning  that the proposed reforms would raise a “typical family’s” health insurance premiums by as much as $4,000 over the next ten years.

The report is a particular stab in the back to President Obama and Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus. Both have spent recent months assiduously kissing the insurers’ gold-plated butts in exchange for their “co-operation” on health care reform. The Baucus bill is already a giveaway to the health insurance industry. By requiring millions more Americans to buy private health insurance plans, it stands to shovel even more money into their coffers, while imposing little government regulation and no competition from a public plan.

But that still wasn’t enough for the insurance companies. As the Los Angeles Times reports, health insurers have concluded that Baucus bill doesn’t do enough “to draw young, healthy people into the insurance pool. Industry analysts predict that by postponing and reducing penalties on those who fail to buy health insurance, it would attract less-healthy patients who would drive up costs.” In other words, some of the new policy-holders might actually require insurance companies to pay for health care in exchange for their bonanza of new premiums. That, of course, might chip away at their profit margin, whch would never do—so their only option is to raise already sky-high insurance premiums even higher. Or so they say.

Here, via Fox News, are some stats on the poor, starving health insurance executives who could be forced to prostrate themselves for the good of the general public. Poor guys. Give ‘em a break.

Health Insurers’ Executive Pay (2008)

Axis Capital Holdings Limited
John R. Charman
$41.6 M

W. R. Berkley Corp.
William R. Berkley
$29.2 M

Aetna
Ronald A. Williams
$24.3 M

MetLife
C. Robert Henrikson
$20.8 M

Chubb Corp.
John D. Finnegan
$20.1 M

American International Group
Martin J. Sullivan
$14.7 M

Everest Re Group
Joseph V. Taranto
$14.6 M

Commerce Group
Gerald Fels
$13.2 M

Prudential Financial
John R. Strangfeld
$12.9 M

Cigna
H. Edward Hanway
$12.2 M

Wellpoint
Angela Braly
$9.8 M

Coventry
Dale Wolf
$9 M

Health Net
Jay Gellert
$4.4 M

Humana
Michael McCallister
$4.7 M

United Health Group
Stephen J. Hemsley
$3.24 M

Source: The Corporate Library, SEC filings

The LA Times reports that “industry officials said they intended to circulate the report on Capitol Hill and promote it in advertisements.” What this means is another well-funded effort to scare the public, along the lines of the original “Harry and Louise” ads against the Clinton health care reform. (Those ads were funded by AHIP’s predecessor.) These scare tactics are designed to distract people from the most obvious means of reducing health care costs, which is to kick the bloodsucking insurance companies out of the system altogether—or, barring that, to take a slice out of their fat profits.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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