AHIP Unveils New Health Care Proposal

America’s Health Insurance Plans desperately want a seat at the table of reform. Today, during a press conference at the National Press Club, which the Wonk Room attended, Karen Ignagni — the CEO of AHIP — unveiled the industry’s new health care plan.

“We’re hoping that by offering these proposals early we can contribute to the discussions…[we] wanted to play a leadership role and not shrink from the challenges of here and now,” she said.

The plan is comprehensive. It addresses almost every element of health care reform — access, affordability, cost, and quality — and is a competitor to the proposals of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and the forthcoming Kennedy plan.

In short, the “uniquely American proposal” seeks to build on the current employer-based system to “get everyone covered.” This, is “not negotiable,” Karen Ignagni, the CEO of AHIP explained. Here are the basics:

Build on the current employer-based system: The more than 160 million Americans who receive their health insurance through an employer should be able to keep their coverage, if they so choose.

Strengthen the health care safety net: Medicaid should establish a “clear, simple, transparent income test” where everyone above 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is eligible for coverage. The State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) should also be expanded to children in families with incomes up to 300 percent of FPL.

Helping hand for working families: The federal government would subsidize coverage on a sliding scale up to 400% of the FPL.

Guaranteed coverage requirement: If every American is required to purchase health insurance coverage — a.k.a. individual mandate requirement — the insurance companies would provide everyone withe coverage.

Uniform benefit packages: Available in all fifty states, these plans would include prevention, wellness, acute care and chronic care coverage but would be “free from conflicting mandates” and could provide an “affordable alternative to COBRA for the unemployed.

Cost containment Congress should set a target of 300% reduction in future growth and establish an independent commission to look at variations in practice patterns, cost shifting, supply patterns, cost consolidation and lay out a road map to achieving a national target.

The group opposes an employer-mandate, wants the government to subsidize discriminating premiums based on age, gender, and medical condition, and is reluctant to accept an agreement that would force private plans to compete with a public Medicare-like plan within an new national insurance exchange.


AHIP is all for “affordable” coverage on the government’s dime. That is, rather than agreeing to end premium discrimination based on age or sex, it wants the government to issue tax credits and cap total health expenditures for lower-income individuals to protect Americans from bankruptcy. The plan calls on the government to ensure affordability, while protecting industry profits.

Asked if they supported the “national insurance exchange” proposed by President-elect Obama, James Roosevelt, President and CEO of Tufts Health Plan and a member of AHIP’s Board of Directors explained that while his company “participates in the Massachusetts plan,” which “has been very successful in Massachusetts,” “you can’t take the Massachusetts experiment and translate it directly nationally.” “We are proposing alternatives here that will address these problems,” Roosevelt explained.