What’s Wrong With This Picture?

I subscribe to lots of newsletters and various forums for information. Today I received an email from HealthDecisions.org with the following three headlines, and I have to admit I’m confused.

1. Insurers Seek Bigger Reach In Coverage  – New York Times, 12/19/2007

2. New AHIP Survey Finds Individual Health Care Coverage Accessible and Affordable – AHIP, 12/19,/2007

3. AHIP Releases Individual Market Guarantee Access Proposal – AHIP, 12/19/2007

The first story acknowledges that too many people simply cannot obtain health insurance on their own, and that the insurance industry plans on Wednesday to propose a series of steps the companies say would let more individuals, even those who have health problems, obtain coverage. Meanwhile, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) released a ‘comprehensive survey’ of the individual health insurance market stating that health care coverage is more accessible and affordable ‘than is widely known’.  The survey found that ‘premiums are affordable, most who applied were offered coverage, and that consumers have access to a wide variety of benefit options to meet their individual needs.  In addition, health savings accounts (HSAs) continue to be a popular coverage option among consumers’. But what does that mean? That because some people can afford the premiums, and were granted coverage, that these plans somehow qualify as ‘affordabe’ for all?

At the same, AHIP released an article acknowledging that the individual health market needs serious reform before it can ‘address the unique challenges’ facing the individual health insurance market.  “We believe that plans and the states, working together, can guarantee access to affordable insurance for everyone in the individual market,” said Jay Gellert, President and CEO of Health Net, Inc. and Co-Chairman of the Individual Market Task Force.

So which is it? That individuals can afford individual plans but just don’t know it? Or that it’s possible to obtain cost-effective individual coverage, but just not quite yet? But the more interesting aspect of all this is the Individual Market Task Force itself. Who’s on the Force? A group of insurance company executives, of course.  Now don’t you think there is something fundamentally wrong with that picture?