01/02/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Insurance Industry Releases Their Plan -- Will the Media Question It?

Tomorrow, America's Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry front group, will release "a new comprehensive health care reform proposal that offers solutions to contain rising health care costs, enhance portability, provide affordable coverage options for small businesses, protect against medical bankruptcy, and more."

Now, over here at Health Care for America Now, we're pretty sure what AHIP's plan will include based on their past statements. At online forums around the Democratic and Republican conventions, Karen Ignagni, AHIP's CEO, repeated her support for McCain-style health care reform heavy on tax credits and light on actual solutions to high costs, low enrollment, and high administrative overhead. Then, even though AHIP recently said they would start accepting customers with pre-existing conditions instead of denying them needed insurance, they still steadfastly resist competing on a level playing field with a public insurance plan that is affordable and open to all. (And they say nothing about controlling costs.)

Given that AHIP's plan will likely be long on rhetoric (universal coverage, affordability) and short on actual solutions to any of those problems, we have 10 questions we're hoping members of the media will ask Karen tomorrow morning at the National Press Club in Washington, DC when AHIP presents their plan:
  1. Will you continue to charge people more for health coverage based on age, gender, and medical condition, and will you raise rates on business and individuals after they or their employees go through costly medical care or become chronically ill?
  2. You say that with universal coverage you will accept everyone, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. Are there any qualifiers on that?
  3. Will you continue to support high-risk pools which transfer the cost of the most expensive people to the public? If so, why are such pools needed if you are accepting all comers?
  4. Will you support the federal government requiring that all health care plans include defined health benefits?
  5. The Congressional Budget Office has found that Medicare is paying private insurers 13% more than it costs Medicare's public plan to provide the same benefits. Will you support giving people a choice of public insurance? And if not, why not?
  6. Does your plan require you make your rules - the rules you use to decide whether or not to provide care - public and easily understood?
  7. Does your plan limit the amount that insurers may spend on administration, marketing, and profit?
  8. Insurance premiums have been rising four times faster than wages while health insurance profits rose more than 1000% from 2001 to 2006. Given this, why should we trust you to control health care costs?
  9. The average health insurance company CEO earns $8 million. In recent years, the Aetna CEO earned $57 million, the CIGNA CEO earned $42 million, and executives at WellPoint made more than $150 million in gains. Will you agree to limit CEO compensation as part of your health insurance reform proposal?
  10. How much of the money you make from health insurance premiums are you spending now or planning to spend on lobbying and other efforts to influence the debate on health care?

We've sent reporters these questions, so they have them on hand. I'll be down at the National Press Club tomorrow, live-blogging and listening to see if the media steps up to the plate, does their job, and questions the industry's spin. It should be a fun morning.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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