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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/16/10

Pity the Poor Chief Lobbyist for the Health Insurance Companies

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Pity poor Karen Ignani, chief health insurance lobbyist, who must have her fingernails chewed down to the quick worrying about her big bonus.

Everything now hangs on Congress passing the "healthcare reform" bill she has worked so hard to get enacted. She has zigged and zagged, done whatever it takes to get this bill passed. She knows if it passes she will be rewarded generously for doing a bang-up job.

After all, this bill gives insurance companies tens of millions of new customers by forcing everyone to buy health insurance or face penalties for breaking Federal law; it delivers directly to insurers $500 billion of public money extracted from federal taxpayers, state taxpayers, and Medicare beneficiaries; and it enables insurers to sell still higher priced policies for still greater profits.

It's always called "healthcare reform", but it would be more accurate to call it "profit protection for health insurance companies."

It allows the insurers to continue marking up the cost of healthcare by 45%. For each $100 of actual healthcare they receive, policy holders pay $145. That markup costs them, in total, $1 billion per day, over $3 trillion per decade. Except for risk pooling, worth maybe 3%, the 45% markup delivers no added value to policy holders, only the hassle and heartache of treatment denials.

Getting passage of something so blatantly contrary to the interests of the electorate is obviously a major accomplishment, even with the six lobbyists per Congressperson Karen was given the wherewithal to send scurrying around Washington with satchels full of cash. Up from the usual four.

Early last year her organization, AHIP, pushed "healthcare reform" in TV ads. When she realized that support from the despised insurance companies was actually hurting prospects for "reform", Karen zigged, and the ads stopped.

She began working to fool the public into believing that insurers actually OPPOSE the plan they themselves had designed. MoveOn and other groups like the Maine People's Alliance held rallies excoriating the nasty insurance companies and urging passage of "reform", to Karen's great delight, I'm sure.

Then she zagged by fighting a phony public option that only 5% of the public could opt for, customers the insurers don't want anyway because they are too poor and too sick. Karen must have laughed up her sleeve at Rep. Chellie Pingree's heroic fight for this non-option, supposed to "give the insurance companies competition" and "keep them honest", even though it wouldn't threaten them at all. Karen knew it could quietly be left to die once it had served its real purpose of drowning out debate about single payer, which Obama had obediently declared to be "off the table".

Karen even got Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to insist repeatedly on TV that Obama's "healthcare reform" must be good because the insurance companies oppose it,even thoughThe Wall Street Journal had just reported that those insurers poured money into an attempt to rescue Martha Coakely's Massachusetts campaign, so she could vote for this same "reform".

But Karen's crowning achievement has to be the 39% policy price increases announced in California. As the Financial Time said in its front page story on February 25, they "have fueled public ire and given a boost to the healthcare reform efforts of Barack Obama".

Was that brilliant, or what?

So think of poor Karen Ignani when Congress finally votes on this historic bill. If it passes, she will get the huge bonus she so richly deserves. If it fails, she may just have to scrape by on her normal income of $1 million per year.

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A serial entrepreneur, cofounder of three high tech companies and an avid multihull sailor.

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