Health Insurance, Business Lobbyists Discussions Overhauling US Health Care System

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The Boston Globe on Wednesday examined how powerful special interest groups that helped torpedo health care reform 16 years ago are now advocating significant changes in the nation's health insurance and delivery system and "participating in regular discussion about how to expand health coverage and lower costs."

Two "key factions," the business and the health insurance industry lobbies, are "talking seriously about changes that would ideally help cover the nation's 47 million uninsured, improve the quality of care and tame the growth of health care spending," the Globe reports.

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Members of the industries, as well as health care providers, labor unions and other groups, are "trying to reach consensus" on what an overhaul should include and have sponsored television campaigns "pressing for reform, in cooperation with such unlikely partners as AARP" and the Service Employees International Union, according to the Globe. America's Health Insurance Plans President Karen Ignagni said industries "can sit and wait for others to develop proposals or take the bull by the horns and look at what are the issues that are troubling the country. ... It's not an altruistic strategy, it's a realistic leadership strategy."

The Globe reports that the "mood" among the two industries "contrasts markedly with the one that prevailed in 1993 and 1994, when the insurance industry sponsored devastatingly effective ads" targeting a national health plan proposed by the Clinton administration. Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said, "If the 'strange bedfellows' participants reach agreement and find common ground, this clearly would be a game-changer." John Rother, AARP director of legislation and public policy, said, "What's striking this time is the extent to which they're engaging in a constructive way, at least so far, and I think that's very promising."

However, the Globe reports, "Significant differences over policy remain unresolved, and even the most optimistic proponents of reform think passing major legislation next year would be difficult." Topics of contention include how to control the rising cost of health care and how the market should be regulated, among other issues (Wangsness, Boston Globe, 12/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. © 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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