The head of the health insurance lobby, Karen Ignagni, is crying fowl about being demonized by Democrats trying to complete health insurance reform in Washington. After all, haven't the insurers been playing nice on Capitol Hill, agreeing to sell everyone a health insurance policy so long as the government forces everyone to buy it at the price insurers want?
Let's not forget health insurers have demonized themselves through tactics that would get mobsters drummed out of the mafia. Health insurers have enrolled patients and taken their premiums, then looked for innocent mistakes on their enrollment applications to cancel them and leave them high and dry after they rack up big medical bills. John Gotti would never have stood for such duplicity in his protection racket, where one's word is his bond.
Insurers deny and delay coverage for patients in critical need of treatment because they know most patients have little legal recourse to compel care. They have bludgeoned patients with the fine print in their enrollment applications to deny life saving treatment like transplants. They have changed the terms of their agreements to deny care for kids with autism. They have confused and befuddled us all with their baffling legalese. And they have refused to sell policies to individuals with ailments as minor as toe nail fungus, hoping to cash in on covering only the healthy.
Health insurers are not the victims, but the victimizers. The White House and Congress should not lose sight of that this August recess, but talk more about the industry abuses that have driven reform. Health insurers are playing possum in Washington DC because they want to hijack reform and prevent competition from a government plan like Medicare that will help patients more. Their "good will" is little more than fear that they won't be able to keep making a killing if they don't have a seat at the table in the west wing.