In BusinessWeek, Chad Terhune and Keith Epstein write that major insurance companies have already succeeded in defining the debate over health care reform in such a way that, whatever the final outcome, they stand to profit in the end.
In addition to limiting and maybe even eliminating the proposed “public option,” insurers, led by UnitedHealth, have deftly steered legislators toward universally mandated coverage with little or no cost controls. After identifying the insurance behemoth with impressive influence in Washington as the ringleader of the effort, the reporters proceed to dig deeper into UnitedHealth’s closet, chronicling dirty laundry like rate hikes, sketchy databases and dubious plans for seniors.
Terhune and Epstein also point out that the Lewin Group – whose work (especially that showing how government-run care would harm the insurance industry) is often cited by legislators opposing a public option – is ultimately owned by none other than UnitedHealth. But Lewin isn’t the only arm of UnitedHealth making a cameo appearance in the reform debate, the number crunchers at its Ingenix wing and its chronic care OptumHealth subsidiary both stand to reap substantial windfalls from the proposed reforms.