Constructive debate on health care is always welcome. It's an important part of the process of achieving meaningful reform. Unfortunately, what we've seen out of the insurance industry over the past few weeks can't be categorized as either "constructive" or even a "debate" but rather a misinformation campaign designed to confuse and distract attention from those who are seeking real health care solutions.
The most recent salvo was a set of state-by-state analyses released yesterday by WellPoint claiming that under health reform individual premiums would skyrocket. Like the now widely discredited report from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the deeply flawed Blue Cross Blue Shield analysis, the WellPoint study arrives at its conclusion by cherry picking certain policies and ignoring major aspects of reform that would affect both the number of people covered and the premiums they would pay. Among the policies that WellPoint’s study consciously ignores: special policies for young adults including premium credits and a special "young invincibles" plan; reinsurance to lower the cost of catastrophic care; and the benefits of creating a new health exchange, which the non-partisan CBO says will reduce premiums. As a result, WellPoint reaches almost exactly the opposite conclusion that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and other independent health experts have reached about the benefits of health insurance reforms.
Bottom line: if you take a flawed methodology and break it down state by state, you still end up with a flawed result.
The WellPoint analysis did make one novel argument worth noting. It argued that imposing fees on health insurance providers and drug and device makers represents a tax on individuals and families. This is an argument that is being echoed by conservative think tanks like AEI. But the claim does not withstand scrutiny for at least three reasons: