Hiltzik further described what the industry has in mind for covering sick people, and he notes that its reform plan proposes a system that “spreads the costs for high-risk individuals across a broader base”—in other words, dumping more of the cost onto the taxpayers. Hiltzik told of an industry consultant who, at an industry conference last year, called those patients “clinical train wrecks.” That’s not a very nice way to talk about people seriously ill with heart disease or cancer. Like Zaldivar, Hiltzik also quoted Ignagni. At the recent White House health summit, she told attendees: “You have our commitment to play, to contribute and to help pass healthcare reform this year.” “On the coy and noncommittal scale,” Hiltzik said, “the statement rates a 10.0.”

All this reminds me, too, of the industry’s actions when the movie Sicko came out. The insurers’ PR apparatus sprang into action, sending its apostles out on press missions armed with talking points and reports to bolster its agenda while blunting the movie’s impact. At that time, the industry was pushing its manifesto, called “A Vision for Reform.” At the end of the document, the trade group proclaimed: “We stand ready to engage in a dialogue with the federal and state governments and with other stakeholders to advance these policies and to work to provide access to all of the uninsured Americans.”

Gee—that doesn’t sound much different from what Ignagni is saying now. Has the industry really undergone an extreme makeover?

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.