America's Health Insurance Plans lost its star leader a few weeks ago, and now a heavyweight member is heading out, too.
UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest health insurer with $143 billion of expected revenue this year, is leaving the health insurance trade group by June 30, Politico first reported Tuesday. The company, which owns UnitedHealthcare and Optum, said its interests “are no longer best represented by AHIP.”
Just a month ago, Karen Ignagni stepped down as CEO of AHIP after spending 22 years there. Ignagni took the top position at EmblemHealth, a large not-for-profit health insurer in New York with some big financial problems.
Ignagni leaving AHIP was pretty significant, as she was considered to be one of the most influential lobbyists in the country. But UnitedHealth severing ties with AHIP sends a powerful message about the health insurance industry. It's roughly equivalent to Kaiser Permanente leaving the American Hospital Association or Pfizer leaving the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Lobbying matters in healthcare, and UnitedHealth's departure brings up the more fundamental question of whether AHIP is as powerful, or necessary, as it used to be. If the largest private company in the trade group's industry backs out, what does it say about the trade group's strategy? Is that partially why Ignagni left?
For what it's worth, AHIP interim CEO Dan Durham defended the organization. “AHIP has a strong and demonstrated track record of successful advocacy on behalf of the health insurance industry,” he said in a statement. “Our board has focused us on the critical issues facing health insurers and the customers we serve, including affordability, high-cost drugs and Medicare Advantage.”