Uproar over an insurance industry-funded report alleging that pending healthcare legislation would drive up family premiums continued last week as some sought to discredit the findings while the industry continued to defend it.
Pricewaterhouse flap fallout
Groups criticize as AHIP defends findings
PricewaterhouseCoopers, which produced the report, issued a clarifying statement saying that the report was based only on certain aspects of the Senate Finance Committee bill. Officials for PricewaterhouseCoopers declined to discuss how the flap might have affected its business or reputation.
Policy analysts said the incident shows the importance of checking the source. “Readers should be very careful before repeating or reporting claims made by reports that were funded by people, or businesses, with a ‘dog in the hunt,’ ” said Len Nichols, director of the health policy program at the New America Foundation.
AARP also discredited the report, saying it left out money-saving provisions of the bill. AARP’s executive vice president of policy and strategy and chief lobbyist, John Rother, called it “not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, which commissioned the report, continued to defend it. “The report’s central finding has long been noncontroversial in health policy and economic circles: namely, that implementing reforms of the insurance market without a strong requirement that everyone participate will cause adverse selection and significantly increase costs for individuals and small businesses,” Ignagni wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece.
The report, released on Oct. 11, concluded that a typical family insurance policy would cost about $20,700 more cumulatively between 2010 and 2019 under the Senate Finance Committee’s health reform proposal than under the current system. The report focused on four areas of the bill: a tax on so-called “Cadillac” health plans, rate cuts to public programs, new taxes on the health sector and insurance market reforms with modest coverage requirements, according to the report.
The analysis did not include other aspects of the bill, including coverage subsidies to lower- and middle-class Americans, a decision that Nichols called “a stunning omission.” Nichols noted that the paper was not peer-reviewed, and that “the consulting firm neither allowed neutral parties to check its methods nor did it send it out for review by neutral parties before releasing it to the press,” he said.
Carl McDonald, a managed-care analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., said in an investor note that more important than the report’s contents was its timing for release—on the eve of the Senate Finance Committee vote to pass the bill. “As much as the Democrats don’t want to admit it,” McDonald wrote, “They still haven’t settled on a real consistent message that explains to 90% of the voting public that already has health insurance what exactly is in it for them.”
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.