Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blue Cross pushing plan to declare health reform unconstitutional

By Sahil Kapur

healthcaremoney Blue Cross pushing plan to declare health reform unconstitutionalAs the battle for health care reform rages on in the Senate, the powerful insurance consortium Blue Cross Blue Shield appears to have embraced some rather unorthodox methods for achieving its goals.

After months of fierce insurance industry opposition to the bill, Blue Cross is working secretively with conservative front group American Legislative Exchange Council to use the issue of states' rights as a pretext to declaring health reform unconstitutional.

ALEC has for months worked to spread the notion that all the proposals put forth by President Obama and Democrats -- including industry regulations and a public option -- violate states' rights. The group wrote a resolution declaring as much this summer.

A senior executive at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBS' lobbying group) has admitted to Think Progress she played a vital role in crafting ALEC's resolution, and insurance lobbyists have since worked in tandem with the group to promote it.

According to the ALEC website, the resolution was developed by a three member task force of industry representatives. One of the of the members is Joan Gardner, who is executive director of state services with the BCBS Association's Office of Policy and Representation. In an interview with ThinkProgress, Christie Herrera, the director of ALEC's health task force, confirmed that Gardner played a pivotal role in crafting this anti-health reform states' rights initiative. Herrera told us that Gardner's unique position at the BCBS Association brought "great knowledge" to the issue, and that Gardner voted to press forward with the campaign.

Numerous Republican lawmakers, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have co-opted the resolution, and amendments in its spirit have been reportedly introduced in at least half a dozen states.

The insurance industry has spoken with a largely singular voice of opposition to the current reform effort. It has released various studies and reports promising that insurance premiums will rise and that the legislation will hurt consumers. Their claims have been widely challenged or debunked, and the industry has been accused of pushing their financial agendas at the expense of regular people.

The Huffington Post reported on Friday that Aetna, a large and influential insurance firm, is preparing to rescind coverage for 650,000 customers by raising prices, in an effort to achieve higher profit margins.


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