Stanley Feld M.D., FACP, MACE Menu


Get Ready For Harry and Louise: Act 2.- Part 1- Insurers Seek Bigger Reach in Coverage

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

In 1994 the insurance industry produced an advertising campaign that torpedoed Hillary Clinton’s healthcare plan. The campaign introduced Harry and Louise to America.

Hillary Clinton’s plan would have been a disaster if enacted. I believe it would have left the healthcare system in worse shape than it is now. I was against Mrs. Clinton’s healthcare plan. (HillaryCare). I was rooting for Harry and Louise. One tends to ignore the subtext of modern advertising campaigns when it seems to be competing with a policy one is against. Harry and Louise was simply a mass mind manipulation campaign by the healthcare insurance industry in order to retain control over the healthcare system.

I predict the healthcare insurance industry is getting prepared for another Harry and Louise campaign.

“Acknowledging that too many people simply cannot obtain health insurance on their own, the insurance industry plans to propose a series of steps the companies say would let more individuals, even those who have health problems, obtain coverage.”

The insurance industry’s strategy seems to be to get the heat off it during the presidential campaign and appearing to be sympathetic to the middle class individual with a preexisting illness and issue insurance to previously unqualified applicants.

“The industry’s announcement comes at a time when dozens of states are already considering some kind of health reform and insurers are increasingly being vilified by the Democratic presidential candidates.”

“The devil is in the details.” Unfortunately our sound bite society is not interested in the details. I believe the healthcare insurance industry is generating false hope in order to decrease the vilification during this presidential campaign season. I believe their intent is to maintain their control over the healthcare system. .

“The proposals, approved by a board of the industry’s main trade group (America’s Health Insurance Plans), would make it harder for insurers to cancel policies or deny coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. The steps would also limit the premiums that could be charged for such people.”

It sounds great. The catch is the healthcare industry is going to dump all of the problems on the taxpayer rather than take any more risk.

“The trade group also called on states to provide individual coverage for people who were likely to incur very high medical bills.”
“The effort is meant to help address the problem of 47 million Americans without health coverage. And it signals a willingness by insurers to abandon practices that have seemed aimed at excluding all but the healthiest individuals.”

If we read the details carefully nothing is substantially changed except a positive public relations push.

“We are taking responsibility for ensuring that no one falls through the cracks,” said Karen Ignagni, the chief executive of the trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans.”

The healthcare insurance industry seems to be playing into the hands of the Democratic Party’s candidates by provide universal coverage for all. It wants to help set the rules so they can continue to cherry pick the lower risk patients.

“It is far from certain whether any of the specific proposals will be enacted or states will finance the cost of broader coverage. But the industry’s position indicates a willingness to move toward a system in which everyone can find coverage.”

The healthcare insurance industry wants to sound like it is going to help the people.

This month, former Senator John Edwards pledged to take on the insurance companies, saying “the American health care system is broken because wealthy insurance corporations and their lobbyists have rigged the system against the American people.”

I believe in reality they want to get the presidential candidate’s off its back.

“ The industry is trying to have a greater say in any state changes that may be enacted. Many insurers chafe, for instance, over what they consider an overly regulated approach in Massachusetts. Despite the Massachusetts controls the cost overrun are unmanageable.”

It seems pretty clear that the healthcare insurance industry wants to look like it is going to help while keeping the system rigged.

“The health insurance is coming to grips with the fact that practices that are clearly driven by market forces are giving the industry a black eye,” said Paul B. Ginsburg, the president of the Center for Studying Health System Change. “

Paul Ginsburg is correct. I think the insurance industry is trying to get society to vilify some other stakeholder. The weakest stakeholder in the system is the physician. I think we will be seeing this shift shortly.

“The insurance industry has backed health care change before. Insurers were at first supportive of the initiatives of President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s, until they felt threatened.”

The healthcare insurance industry is shooting itself in the head with this initiative. If this faulty reform is turned into legislation sixty to seventy percent of the population will be on a government entitlement program. Once the industry sees this they will roll out Harry and Louise to turn public opinion against the lawmakers. I don’t doubt that this is part of its strategic plan.

The Harry and Louise campaign had the most direct impact on the downfall of Hillarycare in 1993.

The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.