Health Law Turns Obama and Insurers Into Allies

By Robert Pear
The New York Times, November 17, 2014

With the health insurance marketplace now open for a second year, President Obama will be depending more than ever on the insurance companies that five years ago he accused of padding profits and canceling coverage for the sick.

Those same insurers have long viewed government as an unreliable business partner that imposed taxes, fees and countless regulations and had the power to cut payment rates and cap profit margins.

But since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership that has been a boon to the nation’s largest private health plans and led to a profitable surge in their Medicaid enrollment.

“These companies all look at government programs as growth markets,” said Michael J. Tuffin, former executive vice president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the main lobby for the industry. “There will be nearly $2 trillion of subsidized coverage through insurance exchanges and Medicaid over the next 10 years. These are pragmatic companies. They will follow the customer.”

“We are in this together,” Kevin J. Counihan, the chief executive of the federal insurance marketplace, told insurers at a recent conference in Washington. “You have been our partners,” and for that, he said, “we are very grateful.”

In another sign of the close relationship, the administration has recruited experts from the insurance industry to provide operational expertise. Eight months after the unit of UnitedHealth Group, called Optum, helped repair HealthCare.gov last fall, the administration hired a top Optum executive, Andrew M. Slavitt, as the No. 2 official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The administration waived conflict-of-interest rules so that Mr. Slavitt could participate in decisions affecting UnitedHealth and Optum.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/us/politics/health-law-turns-obama-and…

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided the private health insurance industry with the greatest stimulus to its industry that it could possibly have achieved, and it is reaping great rewards as a result.

Even the provision of ACA that was considered most unfavorable for the industry – the fact that they would have to start insuring individuals with preexisting conditions – was actually just what they needed because it then mandated the individual mandate. That is, they would have the entire population as their market, except for the government plans. Even there, Medicaid is being shifted en mass to private insurers, and more Medicare patients are moving into the private Medicare Advantage plans – all with the complicity of the Obama administration.

If you don’t understand why the takeover of health care financing by the private insurance industry is a problem, there are a few thousand Quote of the Day messages that can give you some insight – posted at http://www.pnhp.org/news/quote-of-the-day