PI Original Adam Doster Tuesday November 17th, 2009, 3:32pm

Small Business Owners Stand Up To Giant Insurance Lobby

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) kicked off its annual conference in Chicago this morning and health care reform is sure to be a major topic of discussion. Just over two weeks ago, AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni said her organization -- the nation's top health insurance ...

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) kicked off its annual conference in Chicago this morning and health care reform is sure to be a major topic of discussion. Just over two weeks ago, AHIP CEO Karen Ignagni said her organization -- the nation's top health insurance lobby -- was "concerned" that the recently-passed House bill will increase health care costs for families and employers across the country and "significantly disrupt" coverage for millions more. This came after Ignagni's months of lip service to Democratic leaders about her support for their broad proposal.  The group even commissioned a study to back up its conclusions about the bill, but the findings were largely dismissed for shoddy math and effectively refuted by the Congressional Budget Office's analysis.

Today, eight small business owners affiliated with the Main Street Alliance showed up at the conference with a simple question for Ignagni: Why is AHIP attempting to maintain the status quo? After sending a letter Friday requesting a meeting, the entrepreneurs were not surprisingly rebuffed.  Instead, they appeared outside the conference, where they explained, one-by-one, how the exploding cost of health care premiums was making it difficult to operate profitably. Watch some excerpts:

Following the press event, the business owners took to the streets, joining hundreds of their friends and allies -- including numerous labor leaders and reform advocates -- in a protest across the street from the conference.

The crowd heard from Tom Balanoff of the SEIU Illinois State Council (which sponsors this website), Henry Tamarin of UNITE-HERE Local 1, Roberta Lynch of AFSCME Council 31, as well as former Cigna executive Wendell Potter, who characterized the current health care system as "a Wall Street Health Care takeover," (a similar sentiment to the one he expressed before a House subcommittee hearing this June).

This isn't the only reform-related event on the schedule this week in Illinois.  Tomorrow, the Campaign for Better Health Care kicks off its annual conference with a debate between Gov. Pat Quinn and Democratic challenger Dan Hynes.  Check back Thursday morning for our coverage.

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