Health Insurance Industry Still at Table — for Now

By Caitlin Taylor

Jul 27, 2009 2:10pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: The White House and its allies on health care reform are eager to point out that — in marked contrast to the failed Clinton-era health care initiatives — the powerful health insurance industry is working with decision-makers to find a bill, not in opposition to their efforts. But that may not last much longer. On’s “Top Line” today, Robert Zirkelbach of America’s Health Insurance Plans made clear that a so-called “public option” — a government-sponsored health insurer — would cause the insurance industry to turn against a bill.   “Unfortunately, the concept of a government-run plan is becoming an impediment to reform,” Zirkelbach said. “There’s evidence out there showing that a government-run plan would dismantle the employer-based health care system. It would put at risk hospitals across the country. It would add additional liability to the federal budget. And importantly, if we do the types of market reforms that we’ve proposed and that other people support, then a government-run plan simply isn’t necessary. And it’s unfortunate that that discuss is clouding how much consensus there really is on reform.” President Obama has voiced support for a public option, and such a provision is included in the major bills being debated in the House and the Senate, despite the fierce opposition by the insurance industry and most Republicans. Zirkelbach said he remains hopeful that the Senate Finance Committee — which is slogging through weeks-long negotiations that remain bipartisan — will reject the concept. “We do not support a new, government-run insurance plan, but there is still the Senate Finance Committee,” he said. “There’s a real hope that we can get bipartisan reform coming out of that committee.” Asked if his group would commit to promoting the need for reform through the August congressional recess, even if officials aren’t happy with the bills’ specifics, Zirkelbach did not answer directly. “Right now we’re focused on what we’re for,” he said. “We’re going to continue to talk about the areas where we do have concern. We’ve been very clear that we do not support a government-run insurance plan. Those concerns have been raised by providers, by employers by consumers “This is something we’re going to continue to talk about. But you know, we’re going to be focused on — with our advertising campaign right now, as you can see in that ad — it’s about what we’re for, and where this is broad consensus as part of health care reform.”  
Watch the interview with Robert Zirkelbach of America’s Health Insurance Plans HERE. Also today, we chatted with Time’s Jay Newton-Small about Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska.   Newton-Small recently traveled to Dillingham, Alaska, to interview Palin after her surprise announcement earlier this month that she was stepping down with a year and a half left in her term.  Of Palin’s farewell speech Sunday, Newton-Small said: “I think she’s just kinda — just still a little bit shell-shocked from the campaign, and still a little bit traumatized from . . . being thrown into such a  huge kind of enterprise, that I don’t think anyone can be  prepared for — certainly not someone of her experience.” As for what’s next for Palin, she said, “To my mind I think she certainly has aspirations to higher office. And look, she’s — if you had that opportunity and you were the VP candidate before, why wouldn’t you try again, you know? Why wouldn’t you take that opportunity?” Watch the full interview with Jay Newton-Small HERE.

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