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Insurance industry positioned to profit from reform

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.

Lewin group linked to private insurers

In the Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman, president of AHCJ’s board of directors, scolded journalists for not mentioning that Lewin Group, the consultants who released a recent study claiming that a public insurance option would cost doctors and hospitals money, is ultimately part of a major insurance company.

(Lewin Group is) part of Ingenix, which is owned by United Healthcare Group, the insurance behemoth that has been buying up insurance companies left and right, expanding its reach into just about every segment of the health-insurance market. Its flagship, UnitedHealthcare, helps make it the largest health insurer in the country. It’s a safe bet that United is not too keen on a public plan that might shrink its business.

The relationship is disclosed in the study and Lieberman turned up evidence indicating that there may be no formal protections in place for Lewin Group’s editorial independence. She wondered why journalists, particularly those behind a widely used AP story, did not provide readers with any information or context on Lewin’s insurance industry ties and called on reporters to remedy their error next time Lewin Group comes up.