July 30th, 2009
03:47 PM ET
5 years ago

Top Dems blame insurance industry as health care roadblock

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the insurance industry 'the villians' in the Democrat's push to reform health care.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the insurance industry 'the villians' in the Democrat's push to reform health care.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Congress prepares to head into a monthlong August recess, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill ripped into the insurance industry, framing the health care debate as a battle against insurers.

"They are the villains in this," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. She labeled industry practices as "immoral."

Pelosi predicted that as members go to their districts next month and explain the Democrats' health care plan, it will pick up support. But she pointed directly at insurers as standing in the way of health care reform, highlighting their opposition to having a government-run plan compete with private insurers.

"They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening, and the public has to know that," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also called out insurers at a news conference Thursday.

"I don't think we should be crying great big tears for the insurance industry," he said. "There is no business in America that makes more money than the insurance industry. Over the past 10 years their profits have been increased by over 450 percent.

"So, I'm not really very much in the mood to worry about the insurance industry. The insurance industry, my friends, is the only industry other than baseball that's exempt from the anti-trust act. That's the reason the have 450 percent profit over the past 10 years."

Calling health care reform "the fight of our lives," Pelosi told reporters outside her Capitol Hill office that insurance companies have "had a good thing going for a long time at the expense of the American people and the health of the country. So our members have to go out there ready to take on a big special interest that has not made our country healthier and has made our costs spiral upward, and for whom that is coming to an end."

Asked about insurers' role in health care reform, House Republican Leader John Boehner conceded they "certainly aren't lily white in this fight." But he added, "most Americans like the health insurance they have. ... They don't think it cost too much."

A House Democratic aide said the stepped-up rhetoric regarding insurers is deliberate.

Democratic leaders are concerned that people who have health care insurance aren't getting the message about the need for reform, the aide said. Democrats want to specifically focus on the theme that without reform insurance costs could go up.

Another Democratic aide pointed out that the top item on a list of talking points distributed to House Democrats for the recess reads: "health-insurance reform to hold insurance companies accountable."

–CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this story


Filed under: Harry Reid • Health care • Nancy Pelosi
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Bob in Pa

    No, its the people out here that have seen program after program created by Congress be sub-par and abused.

    Do you people really know where a one-payer system leads? After they have fixed and forcefully lowered costs, the government will need to basically take over all hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies. Doctors and nurses will need to be licensed by the federal government, not the state which means even less oversite. We will have fewer and less motivated health care workers because pay will be decreased. I bet we will even spend less time allowed in the hospital for recovery. With Hospitals no longer being run for profit, several Hospitals will be closed and consolidated in metrepolitian areas to contain costs. It is a no win situation.

    July 30, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  2. Andy

    Its the insurance company's fault??? Thats about like Pelosi. Not her fault at all or the fault of congress. Its not like they are the ones to cast the votes, its the insurance executives who vote and pass legislation. How pathetic.

    July 30, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  3. Predicta

    Let's make public the details of the health reform bill.

    July 30, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. T22

    Insurance industry profit margins aren't out of line, what they fear is that they will have to compete with a government program that is subsidized by tax dollars. Plus, how are they immoral? They provide a service, much like Medicare or Medicaid do and in much the same way.

    So now let me see, first the oil industry was what's wrong with America, then it was the banks, now insurance. What's next and which industry do you work in?

    July 30, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. joe

    Until Congress comes under National Health Care like everyone else the Health care will remain a problem as it does not effect any member of congress. They have become a priveliged class.
    Their retirement should be the same Social Security as other wage erners.

    July 30, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. Larry

    I hope everyone is reading all the posts on this topic and can see what's going on–Under President Obama's leadership we're taking back our government, a government that has been run by special interests since the Vietnam war.

    It's our government again. This health care issue and the fact that Obama is even in office shows we have the power of the vote.

    Politicians, give us health care reform with a public option or you will be voted out of office!

    July 30, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. JR2

    It would be wonderful if our Congress targeted one of the primary issues driving health care costs up - no tort limits. In our litigous society, malpractice expenses and insurance are killing us. We have way too many trial lawyers in the White House and Congress to do anything substantive about this, but the insurance companies and doctors are being compelled to respond to legal demands. In the absence of serious tort reform, we are spinning our wheels. It is the 800-pound gorilla that no one wants to discuss.

    July 30, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  8. Lost

    I don't have insurance and can't afford to buy expensive health care. I also need an operation, what should I do DIE?

    I also wonder, even if I could buy insurance, with a pre-existing health condition will any insurance company take me?

    July 30, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  9. Sam

    Speaker Pelosi is right. However a more accurate characterization would be to say "its the fault of those politicians who are receiving major contributions from the insurance industry – my colleagues the Blue Dog Coalition". The insurance industry used to buy republican votes but now that the Dems have a super majority, they have changed their strategy to bribing the conservative Democrats. Its hard to regulate or change an industry that has bought so much power over the years. But it can be done if the politicians had some back bone and acknowledged their moral responsibility to dramatically change medical coverage in this country to reflect the government run health care systems of the rest of the industrialized world, which are far superior.

    July 30, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  10. Jack in Florida

    The Republicans are the biggest fear mongers.....after the last 8 years of crying wolf, you would think the citizens would have learned by now.....they have no substance so they create fear to "control" the people........not any more!!!

    July 30, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  11. Paul H

    It's not just the insurance companies, it's the whole health care agenda! And the insurance companies, and the medical industry as well.
    The people just want affordable, common sense health care. It's going to take the leaders in all of these area's to make that happen, then the government can come up with some sort of health care plan.

    July 30, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. MCD, SF, CA

    This whole thing is nuts.... just because we have always handled our healthcare one way is no reason to stick with it! Bottom line... healthcare should not be a for-profit system.

    Of course the insurance industry is fighting this.... they are fighting for their lives. The old system is a dinosauer, we need to look to the future and fix a system that is bankrupting this country.

    Don't let lobbyists and big business buyoff our congress or force you to reject change out of fear.

    July 30, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. Asian4Hillary

    Under Obama, Pelosi & Reid leadership; USA is HEAVILY in DEBT, millions of Americans are JOBLESS. Pelosi next time find something else to blame; how can you blame insurance when everybody in your party all the way to Obama are in the pocket of insurance lobbyists and trial lawyers? Lying day in and day out doesn't make it come true; a lie is still a lie no matter how you dice, cut, grind and chop it.

    July 30, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  14. JLS

    It is a 1,000 page bill that most politicians haven't even read through yet. Wake up people!!
    If Pelosi and co. really care about the public in general, have them get us the same medical plans they have. Start asking your local congressperson and senator about THIER healthcare package, and why isn't it affordable for the rest of us. Then watch them stammer.

    July 30, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. annie s

    The insurance and pharmaceutical industries are obscene in both their profits and their tactics. A robust public option will help keep them in line -but its imperative that the true message get out to the American people – that no matter how good they think their insurance is, they are at the mercy of it. High premiums mean lower wages and fewer jobs, and anyone who has worked in health care or been victim of a catastrophic illness can tell horror stories of the claims that don't get paid and the financial ruin heaped on the hard working people because of it.

    July 30, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  16. ROCHELLE

    I hope that the Dems and Repubs understand that they are going to be up for re-election! They are (some of them) signing their own demise. Not voting for the Health bill with the economy is in the toilet and not allowing Citizens the ability to get health care is going to ruin them. Also, not going for Soto-Meyer is just wrong. Get a grip. the lady is qualified and ready to serve. Just like the Repubs not accepting President Obama and some Dems it will backfire on them. Keep it up. They didn't think that President Obama would be President and look what happened. Spanking upon spanking. It will bit them in the tuckus. I realized what was happening, that is why I am no longer a Republican and if the Democrats keep it up I will no longer be a Democrate and go independent.

    Rochelle of Stone Mountain, GA

    July 30, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  17. OldUncleTom

    I would suggest that most people who like their current plan,
    1) have never or rarely used it;
    2) have no idea what premiums actually cost;
    3) count as their only medical expenses the amount of their copays.

    One thing we should all see on our payroll check stubs is the cost of our employer-provided benefit programs. This would allow us to know exactly how generous the boss is (or not), and would give all Americans a sense of what Health Care actually costs.

    My own coverage appears to run about $600/month, which is an awful lot of money for an every-other-year checkup, don't you think?

    July 30, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  18. George

    Why doesn't this health care plan address the high prices paid by
    patients for drugs? Why isn't there a congressional and presidential
    initiative to invesitgate drug prices? The White House plan appears
    more focused on cutting expense at the level of direct patient care
    rather than improving the patients well being.

    July 30, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  19. George

    She is just so disgusting and vile I don't know how she got to where she is.

    July 30, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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