Is AHIP taking a backseat in the ACA repeal debate?

Close-up of K Street sign
Though some say its role has diminished, the health insurance industry's largest lobbying group says it is representing the interests of its members in the current healthcare policy debate. (Getty/AlanEisen)

To some, the health insurance industry’s largest lobbying group, which played a major role in shaping the Affordable Care Act, is taking a less visible role in the current healthcare reform debate.

Yet supporters of America’s Health Insurance Plans said its strategy for engaging policymakers does not show that it has lost influence, but rather that it is practicing purposeful restraint.

One politician who wishes for a stronger stance from AHIP is Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who told Politico that he wants the group to articulate how “horrendous” the GOP's healthcare plan is.

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But that may not be likely to happen, the article noted, as AHIP’s most powerful members have varied degrees of interest in shaping the law’s future.

Anthem, for instance, has supported an ACA repeal, while most Blue Cross Blue Shield plans would prefer repairs to the law. Humana, meanwhile, has already pulled out of the marketplaces for next year and has little skin in the game.

AHIP has also seen insurance heavyweights UnitedHealth and Aetna leave the group, leading some to wonder if it would ever regain its role as the industry’s unified voice.

Still, the group has been very vocal on one major policy point—its insistence that Congress and the Trump administration must guarantee funding for the ACA’s cost-sharing reduction payments. AHIP representatives even met with top federal health officials on the matter, though came away with far less clarity than they hoped.

“AHIP always has a seat at the table,” spokeswoman Kristine Grow told Politico. “While people continue to be frustrated with the nuance of our messaging, we’re representing the interests of our members.”

That nuance may also be an asset, said Mark Ganz, CEO of Cambia Health Solutions and past chairman of AHIP’s board. In his opinion, the group should stay above the political fray.

Indeed, outspoken criticism of the Trump administration and the GOP Congress hasn’t worked out well for one health insurance CEO. J. Mario Molina, who was recently fired from the company his father founded, has suggested his vocal views on ACA repeal played a role in his ouster.

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