Health Insurers No Fans Of Government Graphic

Characterizing the insurance industry's role in health care as a briefcase gushing with cash is a bit much, insurers say.

The new health care website the government launched yesterday to much fanfare has drawn the ire of some health insurers who call certain parts of it nothing more than propaganda.

America’s Health Insurance Plans is especially angry about a graphic located in the timeline section of the site, discussing what the law means for the Medicare Advantage program -- the program where the government pays insurers to offer additional coverage to Medicare recipients.

Next to the text is a briefcase overflowing with cash, with the words “Stopping Overpayments to Big Insurance Companies” on the side.

Insurers say characterizing their role in the program as a briefcase gushing with cash is a bit much, and they're "crying foul over the political messaging," says the Hill newspaper.

“This website is supposed to provide seniors, working families and small employers with objective information on all of their health care options. Unfortunately, it also subjects them to campaign-style propaganda,” Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for AHIP, said.

AHIP says that insurers are unfairly tagged as the the bad guys when it comes to rising health costs, and point out that when doctors and hospitals raise rates, insurance costs have to go up, too.

On average, the government pays 14 percent more for beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage than they do for those in the wholly government run, traditional fee-for-service program. But Medicare Advantage enrollees often get extras, like free vision or dental care.

Health insurers and administration officials continue to squabble about the impact of the new law on Medicare Advantage. The site says the bill will “strengthen” Medicare Advantage, but insurers claim that $136 billion in cuts over the next 10 years would have to result in some loss of patient services.

But the briefcase is not the insurers’ only beef. The Chicago Tribune reports that last month HHS asked them “for data about how many claims its health plans deny,” to put on the website.

Zirkelbach said “Providing information about claims denials without providing proper context does not begin to tell the whole story,”' and he added that claims can be denied for because they’re submitted to the wrong plan.

The Obama Administration declined to comment on the briefcase. Copyright 2010 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.

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