The Health Insurance Industry Goes on the Offensive

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In the high-volume debate about heath care reform, one major player has been notably quiet: the health insurance industry. For the most part, the industry has given faint support to reform, but that changed this week. Health insurance companies are buying up ad time in a number of key states as part of a coordinated push to make sure their concerns remain part of the reform debate. We speak to Brad Fluegel, executive vice president and chief strategy and external affairs officer for the health insurer WellPoint. We hear also from Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade group for insurance companies; and Jon Gruber, a health care economist at MIT who helped Massachusetts develop its universal health insurance plan.

EDITOR'S NOTE: After our segment aired, Jon Gruber disclosed that he has been paid at least $297,600 by the Department of Health and Human Services to model costs and effects of health care reform for the Obama Administration.  We did not discover or disclose that in our interview.



Brad Fluegel, Jonathan Gruber and Robert Zirkelbach

Comments [2]

Russell johnson

I appreciate Hugh Sansom's comment. You have to ask tough questions and not let WellPoint PR flacks reiterate half-truths and lies. At the least, have an interviewer with enough knowledge and courage to ask the difficult questions and challenge mis-statements. I am tired of hearing more detailed and spirited debate about college football or the World Series than health care reform. And the parameters of the conversation are so narrow. How about comparisions to other industrialised nation's health care system costs.

A quote from Noam Chomsky

" The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate. "-- Noam Chomsky

Oct. 15 2009 10:44 AM
Hugh Sansom

Your segment on Health Insurers' war against reform is largely a rehash of insurer propaganda.

1. Massachusetts health care costs have gone UP yet a significant percentage of people are still uninsured.

2. You interview 2 insurer propagandists & 1 MIT centrist with a vested interest in the MA system. No balance there.

3. NOTHING on the WellPoint or AHIP backstory. Nothing about the millions spent on lobbying against reform. Nothing on millions spent on ad campaigns to clean up the image of WellPoint et al.

4. NOTHING on the global economic fact that EVERY country with single payer or something like a public option has LOWER health care costs.

5. WellPoint is the largest insurer in the nation. It owns several smaller health insurers,e.g., Empire BlueCross BlueShield. WellPoint has stipulated it plans to raise premiums no matter what the outcome of "reform". WellPoint's CEO Angela Braly was paid $9.8 million last year.

Oct. 15 2009 09:32 AM

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