Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Wendell Potter

Wendell Potter is a health insurance industry whistleblower and author of 'Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans'

May 23rd, 2012 1:08 PM

Spinning the Supreme Court's 'Obamacare' decision

Insurers laying the groundwork to remove consumer protections if mandate is tossed

I learned that Mitt Romney had won the Nebraska Republican presidential primary last week via a “Breaking News” e-mail alert from POLITICO.  It wasn’t the news from the Cornhusker state, however, that caught my eye. It was instead the health insurance industry’s decision to spend our premium dollars on an Internet ad — an ad warning of dire consequences if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule the way insurers want on the constitutionality of Obamacare.

The worst-case scenario for insurers is if the high court strikes down the provision of the law requiring us to buy coverage (the so-called individual mandate), but allows the law’s important consumer protections to go forward.

The reason Obamacare is built around the individual mandate is because of the relentless lobbying by insurers, and not just on Capitol Hill.  Representatives of the industry made frequent trips to the White House during the debate on reform to twist the arm of President Obama, who had campaigned against the mandate when he was running for president.  

The insurance reps were persuasive in arguing that the parts of the bill consumer advocates were demanding wouldn’t work unless an “enforceable personal purchase requirement” (a.k.a., the individual mandate) was also included, along with subsidies from the government to help low-income families pay their premiums. And not incidentally, insurers love the mandate because it forces millions more people to buy health insurance policies. The insurance folks made it clear that without the mandate and subsidies, the industry would spend whatever was necessary to defeat reform. So a deal was cut. The industry promised it would not try to destroy reform if it got the mandate, and it would even go along with some of what consumer advocates wanted.

One of the reasons the White House and Congressional Democrats agreed to the mandate was because they thought, foolishly, that including it in the bill might attract some Republican support.  Not only would it ensure a viable private insurance market, it actually was first proposed by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Who would have thought that the mandate would wind up being the most contentious part of the legislation and the basis of the constitutional challenge by Republican politicians that would ultimately reach the Supreme Court?

The health insurance industry, through its two big trade groups—America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association—was quick to file an amicus brief when the high court announced it would take up the issue. They argued in the brief that the consumer protections in the law “are inextricably linked to the law’s personal coverage requirement and have to be severed if the court finds the coverage requirement unconstitutional.”

That was in January. Now that we’re getting close to June, when the court is expected to rule, the industry is rolling out a new phase of its campaign to make sure the consumer protections bite the dust—even, I’m willing to bet, if the justices decide to uphold the entire law.

The industry undoubtedly chose POLITICO for its ad because the news organization is widely followed inside the Beltway.  Insurers were sending a message to the justices, reminding them of what they wrote in the amicus brief, and also to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, putting them on notice that should the court strike down only the mandate, insurers will be pulling out all the stops to make sure Congress guts the rest of the law.

“At a minimum,” as AHIP and BCBSA wrote in January, the protections that will have to go are the ones that require insurance firms to sell coverage to anyone who applies for it and that prohibit them from using pre-existing conditions and a person’s medical history to deny coverage or to charge exorbitant rates for it.

To bolster its case, AHIP is now pointing to what it claims were unintended consequences of certain reforms in the state of Washington several years ago.

“In the 1990s,” according to the POLITICO ad, “Washington State tried to implement market reforms without a mandate. By 1999, it was impossible for an individual to buy a health insurance policy in 31 of Washington's 39 counties. Learn more about The Link between the individual mandate and market reforms at http://bit.ly/thelinkahip."

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler confirmed to me that Washington lawmakers in 1999 rolled back some of the consumer protections that had been enacted six years earlier, but he’s not buying AHIP’s prediction that insurers would flee the marketplace if the Supreme Court declares only the individual mandate unconstitutional.

“I think that would happen only in the absence of other mechanisms and options to help reduce insurers’ risk,” Kreidler said. “For example, creation of an open enrollment period for these plans could minimize the likelihood of people jumping in and out of coverage when they have major procedures planned.

“Also, here’s what could be different from 1993,” he added. “If the individual mandate is thrown out but the Medicaid expansion and subsidies upheld, you’d likely have fewer people hopping in and out of the market because of those safety nets allowing them to get and keep coverage.”

Don’t expect the insurance industry to advertise that, though. They want those consumer protections gone. And they will be spending a lot of money in the months ahead to make us all think those protections are not in our best interests after all—regardless of how the court rules.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

My father, Francis (Frank) Moore, passed away this morning a few months shy if his 93rd birthday. He was a great dad I am blessed to have had him in my life. I...

Apr 20th
2:58 AM
Read More

Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this: Chris Christie's $300m pension proposal broke state anti-corruption...

Apr 18th
7:31 PM
Read More

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles