If you liked your old skimpy health plan, you may not be able to keep it. But now you can get a new, somewhat skimpy health plan instead, at least for a little while.
Democrats didn’t see it coming: Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, neither congressional leaders nor the White House anticipated that one specific provision—the mandate requiring individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance—would spark such a ferocious political and legal backlash. Yet, nearly two years later, controversy surrounding the mandate dominates the national conversation about health care reform.
When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.
“Are they going to try to storm the building?” a man in a dark business suit asked a colleague inside the Capitol Hilton ballroom, during a break in the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) conference this afternoon. “Or are we not going to let that happen?” Directly outside the Hilton's well-guarded doors, about a hundred protesters had gathered to denounce the rapacious insurance executives they believed to be inside the Hilton.
Speaking beneath the twinkling crystal chandeliers of the Capitol Hilton ballroom this morning, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) president Karen Ignagni declared that the insurance industry is still on board with the Democratic health care reform effort, pushing back against the presumption that the two sides have declared war. “Our community was one of the first to position ourselves very actively to a massive overhaul of the insurance market,” Ignagni told the audience members, who were attending the organization’s conference on state insurance issues.
Peter Harbage is a Washington DC-based health policy analyst who worked with both Senator John Edwards and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on their individual mandate proposals. He has also worked at both the Center for American Progress and the New America Foundation. With the release of the Congressional Budget Office report on the Senate Finance health bill, there has been significant concern about how health reform may not cover all of the uninsured. From leaders in the progressive movement (read Jon's list of top health reform issues) to Karen Ignagni's October 11 cover memo on the infam
As the Senate Finance Committee prepares to vote on the Baucus bill, the influence of Karen Ignagni hangs over the proceedings. As the president of America Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)--the health insurance lobby--she is a central player in the health care debate. Ignagni has stood behind a new AHIP study which argues against the bill currently under discussion.
The first time I remember speaking with Karen Ignagni was via a TV satellite, for a debate about health care policy on CNN. It was the summer of 2007, not long after the debut of Michael Moore's Sicko, and each of us was playing our usual role. Ignagni is the telegenic president of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and arguably Washington's most influential health-industry lobbyist.