IBJNews

Execs from WellPoint, peers meet to hone health-law lobby

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Top executives from WellPoint Inc. and UnitedHealth Group Inc. are meeting almost monthly with their counterparts from Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Humana Inc. in an informal lobbying alliance aimed at blunting parts of the health-care law, say sources with knowledge of the sessions.

The arrangement began about six months ago, growing out of unrest over decisions by America’s Health Insurance Plans, or AHIP, the Washington-based lobbyist that also serves hundreds of small plans and nonprofit insurers, said the sources who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly. The effort started with meetings between the companies’ Washington lobbyists, and now includes at least three committees that get together weekly.

This group “was not, probably, adequately represented” by AHIP, said Ana Gupte, an analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York. As a result, “they had to do their own lobbying,” she said in a telephone interview.

The unofficial alliance, pulling together the nation’s five largest commercial health insurers, may hire a director and formally organize in the next two months, the sources said. The companies also may also try to ally with large employers to rally around mutual health-care interests, they said.

The five for-profit companies control 39 percent of the commercial, Medicare and Medicaid health-insurance market with 106 million customers projected this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Indianapolis-based WellPoint is the largest health insurer by enrollment.

Although the group’s members don’t plan to leave AHIP, according to the sources, they are joining to lobby on issues where AHIP won’t or can’t support positions that differ from those held by the trade group’s other members. AHIP represents almost 1,300 companies that cover 200 million Americans, according to its website.

WellPoint CEO Angela Braly and Minnesota-based UnitedHealth's chief executive, Stephen J. Hemsley, have been directly involved in the monthly meetings, the sources said. They have been joined by top officials from Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna, Philadelphia-based Cigna and Humana, of Louisville, Ky.

Spokesmen at all five companies declined to comment on the sessions or didn’t return e-mail and telephone inquiries.

One distinction between the interests of smaller state-based or regional plans and the five largest commercial companies involves a provision in the health-care law signed in March that dictates the percentage of premium revenue to be spent on medical care.

State regulators charged with drafting the rule have required insurers to meet the 80 percent spending threshold in each state, a decision Washington-based AHIP supported in a letter dated May 20, 2010. WellPoint and Aetna, in letters to the regulators written in May and July, argued that the spending be averaged nationally across all their premiums.

Karen Ignani, AHIP’s chief executive officer, declined to answer questions about the split.

“Any trade association deals with competitive issues all the time,” Ignani said in an interview. “It’s palace intrigue, and I’ve said all I’m going to say on that.”

The overhaul also outlines how health plans will be treated in markets, called exchanges, that will be started in 2014 to sell coverage, and includes a $60 billion tax on insurers that begins in 2014 and will be passed on to consumers, Gupte said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be setting rules for the exchanges, where insurers will sell coverage to consumers with federal tax credits. They will outline criteria the companies must meet to be allowed into the markets and determine what types of plans can be sold.

The five companies began meeting in July. The issues discussed then included how to improve their image after more than a year of public criticism from the administration of President Barack Obama and its congressional allies, according to the people with knowledge of the discussions.

The insurers called in public relations firms, including Washington-based APCO Worldwide, and Weber Shandwick, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos. Inc. in New York, to solicit proposals for campaigns. The companies haven’t decided whether to move ahead, said two people with knowledge of those meetings.

The group has also hired the law firm Alston & Bird LLP to advise them on antitrust matters, according to two of the people familiar with the arrangement. Barbara Bryant, a spokeswoman for Atlanta-based Alston, said in a voicemail that the firm wouldn’t comment on clients.

Further discussions among the group of five have centered on the extent to which it may become involved in politics, say two of the people familiar with the discussions.

When the group considered creating a $20 million election fund before the midterm elections, some companies wanted to steer money to opponents of lawmakers who had been critical of the industry. At least one company opposed coordinated political donations, said two people with knowledge of the talks.

The political effort never moved beyond those discussions, according to the two people familiar with discussions.

“When you have companies that have different operating environments, at some point they’ll go do their own thing,” said Les Funtleyder, a health-care portfolio manager for New York-based Miller Tabak & Co.

“Everybody’s demands are different based on their size and their market share and their tax status, so it doesn’t surprise me that the publics might want to do their own thing,” Funtleyder said in a telephone interview.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hello Dear Are you tired of Seeking Loans and Mortgages,have you Been Turned down constantly By your banks and Other Financial Institutions or Micro Finance scheme. This is let you know with 100% guarantee that we Offer loans ranging from $1,000 Minimum to $1,000,000.00 Maximum at 3% interest rate per Month. We give out LOANS for developing business. a competitive edge/business expansion. email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com We offer the following kinds of loans and many more; * Personal Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Business Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Consolidation Loan * Combination Loan * Home Improvement * Xmas Loans for contact to seek for loan email this email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com Thanks

  2. My name is Mr Henry Josh and i live in the USA California and life is worth living right now for me and my family and all this is because of one man sent by GOD to help me and my family, i once had a life filled with sorrow because my first SON needed a kidney transplant and all our savings were going towards his medications and this normally leaves us with no money to pay our bills or even put enough food on our table and our rent was due and no funds to pay these bills and life felt so unfair to me and every night my wife will cry herself to sleep every night until one day, i was browsing through yahoo answers and i saw a striking advert of a man that gives out personal loans and that the offer is opened to all and i have heard so many things about internet scams but at this point of my life, i was very desperate and ready to take any risk and at the end of the day, i applied for this loan and from one step to another, i got my loan within 12 hours through bank transfer and you know, it was all like a dream and i called Mr Daniel Jones A Man who is the GOD sent lender i found and said, i have received my loan and he smiled stating that to GOD be the glory and i was so shocked as i have never ever seen anyone with such a GOD fearing and kind heart and today, i am the happiest man on earth because by GOD’S grace, my SON kidney transplant was successful and today he is healthy, i and my family are living very comfortable and happy and if you are in my former situation or in serious and legitimate need of a loan, you can reach this GOD sent lender via fidelityloanfirm@outlook.com

  3. Greetings to everyone reading this comment!!! I am Greg William by name. I am out here to recommend the effort of Mark Oscar,I was in need of a consolidation loan amount of 50,000 and as soon as I got in contact with Mark Oscar Loan Firm on Wednesday last week and on Friday last week as well I receive an alert from my bank(Royal Bank of Scotland Group) that the fund was transferred,I want everybody on this site to contact Mark Oscar now via email on how to get a loan because I got my loan from them and I am very happy,so contact them now. Oscarloanfinance@hotmail.com Thanks!!!!!!

  4. Elected officials, like Mourdock, get vested in 8 years. It takes 10 years for all other public employees, most of whom make a lot less money. So much for the promise to finish out his term.

  5. Great state treasurer and a good man!! Just curious if the folks who didn't quite understand his quote would like to tell my daughter-in-law that God didn't intend her! Mourdock's comment was correct but twisted and the article didn't mention that his opponent and the press let the impression stand that Mourdock meant that the rape was intended. Stupid people!!

ADVERTISEMENT