White House Defends The Senate Bill, Rebuffs Dean's Criticism

The White House took to its blog today to beat back a criticism that liberals--specifically Howard Dean--have leveled at the Senate health care reform bill in its post-Lieberman form, having been stripped of a provision to let 55-64 year-olds buy into Medicare and, consequently, any semblance of a public option.

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos this morning, Dean called the bill "the insurance companies' dream" and "a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG."

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer posted this response on the White House blog this afternoon. His main points are that the insurance industry doesn't actually like the bill and that it's "hugely successful" in containing costs.

Recently, a somewhat perplexing new line of argument has emerged about health insurance reform, with some folks suggesting the Senate bill is a "dream" for insurance companies.

If that's the case, though, it must be news to them. The insurance industry has been leveraging its considerable resources in a ferocious effort to defeat this bill, including producing a report the day before the Senate Finance Committee vote that was so misleading the firm behind it had to walk away from it. And that's not surprising, because this bill will finally wrest power away from the insurance industry and put it in the hands of American consumers.

• Among the many provisions to end insurer abuses, lower premiums, and hold insurance companies accountable:
• Insurance market reforms will prohibit abuses such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, charging exorbitant premiums based on gender, age, or health status, dropping coverage when people are sick, and imposing lifetime limits on benefits.
• Consumer rights will be enhanced by requiring all insurers to provide effective appeals procedures including outside, independent review of appeals
• New insurance exchanges will reduce premium increases by lowering administrative costs and increasing the leverage of individuals and small businesses in this insurance market.
• Competition will also be enhanced by providing consumers comparative information on available insurance options giving them the tools to make more informed decisions and drive competition based on value and service.
• Insurers will be held accountable for excessive overhead costs fueled by unreasonable executive compensation and profits.
• Insurers will also be required to compete against cost-effective national plans selected by the federal Office of Personnel Management.
• Wasteful taxpayer overpayments to insurance companies through private Medicare Advantage plans will be eliminated.
• A new $6.7 billion annual fee will be levied on insurance companies to ensure that they pay their fair share of coverage costs.
It's also important to remember that, while none of us are shedding any tears for the insurance industry, the primary goal of health insurance reform isn't to punish insurers - it's to give every American the ability to find affordable coverage while controlling the unsustainable cost growth in our current health care system that is crushing families and businesses.  On that front, this bill is hugely successful.  This bill will bring stability and security to people who have insurance and provide affordable options to those who don't.  It will protect against arbitrary insurance company rules and  will lower premiums for American families and businesses. And it will take a big chunk out of the national deficit.

America's Health Insurance Plans, for its part, continues to put out press releases highlighting suggestions that current health care proposals wouldn't cut costs enough. Though, given how thoroughly the insurance industry has been demonized by reform supporters all year, it would almost behoove them to remain publicly opposed to anything they like, given that support from AHIP might mean the kiss of death for reform, reinforcing liberals' criticisms of the Senate bill.