23 August, 2009

House and Senate Dems Prepare to Make Insurance Companies' Lives a Living Hell

Something tells me September's going to be a little more interesting health care reform-wise than you may have assumed from the limp performance of the President and the barking of the Blue Dogs.

Sen. Rockefeller may have fucked us on FISA, but he's not Jello Jay when it comes to health care:

Ah, now we're playing hardball! Maybe when Americans start to see how much money these guys are making, it'll get a rise out of them. Way to go, Jay:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate Democrat asked the top 15 health insurers to explain what portion of premiums go to profits versus patient care, putting further pressure on the companies to explain their business practices as Congress considers sweeping health reform legislation.

In letters to the companies on Friday, Sen. John Rockefeller also asked for information about how insurers disclose financial practices to customers.

Earlier this week, senior Democrats on the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee asked dozens of health insurers for details about executive compensation and other practices.

"Too often consumers are not getting a fair deal for what they pay, they are not getting the protections they deserve, and the insurance companies are awash in profit," Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a statement.

The letters were sent to companies including UnitedHealth Group, Wellpoint and Aetna, the committee said.

Nicely done. I'm sure that's a question they're not happy to answer, which is precisely why it should be asked and answers demanded. It also seems Jay's preparing himself a fully-loaded Smack-o-Matic for use when the debate turns in the insurance companies' favor. Excellent.

And Jay's not the only one who's been preparing his Smack-o-Matic for heavy use:

In a jello-wrestling match between Rahm Emanuel and Henry Waxman, I think I'd bet on the latter. While Rahm has been frantically and loudly pursuing two opposing strategies--the Messina-Baucus welfare program for the insurance industry hidden under the guise of the public option kabuki, Waxman has been quietly preparing for battle in September. And it sounds like the insurance industry is getting increasingly worried that Waxman will be better prepared than Rahm and his little kabuki dance.

House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman raised eyebrows this week when he launched a financial probe into the nation's largest insurance companies, which are at the center of the health reform battle.

Now POLITICO has learned that Waxman's recent investigation began almost a month earlier than previously thought - with letters to the insurance industry's powerful trade group and its consultant regarding grassroots tactics.

A committee spokeswoman defended the probes - saying lawmakers need to know that private insurance money is being spent effectively as part of the effort to control costs. But the trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, is crying foul, saying Waxman is merely trying to bring it in line behind his version of the health reform bill.

"Congressional oversight is not a tool that should be used to chill dissent," said AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. "These investigations are nothing more than politically motivated, taxpayer-financed fishing expeditions designed to intimidate and silence health plans."

Aw, poor babies. Not enjoying the feel of that probe, are they? Here's the only answer they need be given when they whine about those no-good very bad horrible awful Congressional probes meant only to silence them:
But jeebus! Isn't this information precisely the kind of information we ought to have in hand before we decide how to reform health care?
He's just asking questions about costs. Y'know, like employee salaries above $500,000, and board member compensation, and all that sort of non-medical spendy stuff. Whyever wouldn't they want to provide that information?


Best of luck to Waxman and Rockefeller in their insurance company spanking endeavors.

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