In November, before the first House vote, WellPoint urged the grassroots to take action because “forcing individuals to purchase coverage through the government reflects a sharp departure from the current system, and we believe Americans should have the choice of not buying coverage through the government exchange if they choose not to do so.”
The legislation allows Americans to buy insurance outside of the state exchanges—and, what’s more, lets companies continue selling their existing policies with skimpy benefit packages. In other words, Congress grandfathered in the low-benefit Tonik policies, a staple of WellPoint’s business model.
A thread running through all the updates is findings from various polls, which had showed all year that roughly half of all Americans dislike reform. The endless poll results no doubt reinforced or perhaps even contributed to other negative opinions among those receiving the updates. Another part of a grand strategy, perhaps?
In December, one update told of a Washington Post-ABC News poll, “indicating 53 % of our fellow Americans understand that their personal costs will increase under this proposal and only 37 % believe that their personal health care will improve.” WellPoint called for the Senate to “set aside this version of health care reform and construct a proposal that has broad and deep public support… Congress needs to hear from individuals.”
When all was said and done, the public option eventually disappeared, and the legislation preserved the private insurance system. WellPoint will continue to expand its market for individual policies, and will cross state lines in order to do so. Only time will tell whether the changes mandated by the bill—for example, restrictions on underwriting for medical conditions, and consumer protections associated with selling policies in states other than those in which a policy is written—will crimp WellPoint’s business style. But if they do, they can always count on a Health Action Network or something like it to make the crucial calls.