Monday, November 17, 2014
The New York Times
November 17, 2014
Health Law Turns Obama and Insurers Into Allies
By Robert Pear
With the health insurance marketplace now open for a second year,
President Obama will be depending more than ever on the insurance
companies that five years ago he accused of padding profits and
canceling coverage for the sick.
Those same insurers have long viewed government as an unreliable
business partner that imposed taxes, fees and countless regulations and
had the power to cut payment rates and cap profit margins.
But since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship
between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a
powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the
nation's largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in
their Medicaid enrollment.
"These companies all look at government programs as growth markets,"
said Michael J. Tuffin, former executive vice president of America's
Health Insurance Plans, the main lobby for the industry. "There will be
nearly $2 trillion of subsidized coverage through insurance exchanges
and Medicaid over the next 10 years. These are pragmatic companies. They
will follow the customer."
"We are in this together," Kevin J. Counihan, the chief executive of the
federal insurance marketplace, told insurers at a recent conference in
Washington. "You have been our partners," and for that, he said, "we are
In another sign of the close relationship, the administration has
recruited experts from the insurance industry to provide operational
expertise. Eight months after the unit of UnitedHealth Group, called
Optum, helped repair HealthCare.gov last fall, the administration hired
a top Optum executive, Andrew M. Slavitt, as the No. 2 official at the
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The administration waived
conflict-of-interest rules so that Mr. Slavitt could participate in
decisions affecting UnitedHealth and Optum.
Comment by Don McCanne
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided the private health insurance
industry with the greatest stimulus to its industry that it could
possibly have achieved, and it is reaping great rewards as a result.
Even the provision of ACA that was considered most unfavorable for the
industry - the fact that they would have to start insuring individuals
with preexisting conditions - was actually just what they needed because
it then mandated the individual mandate. That is, they would have the
entire population as their market, except for the government plans. Even
there, Medicaid is being shifted en mass to private insurers, and more
Medicare patients are moving into the private Medicare Advantage plans -
all with the complicity of the Obama administration.
If you don't understand why the takeover of health care financing by the
private insurance industry is a problem, there are a few thousand Quote
of the Day messages that can give you some insight - posted at
at 6:18 PM