Mark Ganz Assumes National Leadership Role

The CEO and president of Cambia Health Solutions becomes the chair of the most powerful health insurance lobbying group in the country Jan 1.
An avowed Republican, Mark Ganz has never been a fan of the Affordable Care Act, and has purposely kept the Regence health plans as far away from the insurance exchanges as humanly possible. 
 
Now Ganz has a chance to expand his influence and reach a nationwide audience as the incoming board chair of AHIP – America’s Health Insurance Plans based in Washington D.C. – which is considered the premiere voice of the health insurance industry, representing 1,300 member companies that provide insurance to more than 200 million people. 
 
Its lobbying efforts are daunting. From 2005-2009, AHIP spent $31.4 million to influence national politics, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. That amount included $3.9 million in 2009 which paid for the work of 50 lobbyists at eight different lobbying firms.
 
AHIP’s position on the Affordable Care Act couldn’t be more clear. It’s using all of its political muscle to inflict more damage the reform effort. 
 
After President Obama switched gears and told people they could keep their current health insurance policies for another year, Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of AHIP, issued the following statement. 
 
“Making sure consumers have secure, affordable coverage is health plans’ top priority,” she said. “The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the ACA requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today.
 
“Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers. Premiums have already been set for next year based on an assumption of when consumers will be transitioning to the new marketplace. If due to these changes fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase coverage in the exchange, premiums will increase in the marketplace and there will be fewer choices for consumers. Additional steps must be taken to stabilize the marketplace and mitigate the adverse impact on consumers.”
 
Ganz Plays Politics in Oregon  
 
In the Pacific Northwest, Ganz, is president and CEO of Cambia Health Solutions, the parent company of the Regence plans in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington, and has kept the political pressure on as well.  
 
In Oregon alone, he authorized $236,000 in spending by Regence’s political action committee to shift control of the Oregon Legislature to Republicans, but his efforts failed.
 
And his leadership has brought strong criticism from insurance commissioners, former employees (many of whom didn’t leave on their own accord) and disenfranchised consumers, better known as Regence members.
 
For example, when Oregon began launching its insurance exchange, Cover Oregon, Regence officials were in the room, touting the project and its high-ranking executives had even testified in favor during legislative hearings. Then Regence decided, under Ganz’ call, to drop out of the small business exchange in Oregon and Washington and come up with a new product for the individual market, known as BridgeSpan. 
 
Many industry officials insist that was created to dissuade people who have serious health conditions from choosing Regence once the exchange got up and running.  That group, which numbers close to 10,000, have had Regence coverage under the high-risk pool.   
 
"Regence is just trying to game the system and play politics in the hopes that the exchange goes down; it's quite obvious that they're setting themselves up to compete by not participating in the exchange and not gamble on a risky population that they can't predict," according to people familiar with the marketplace,” a Regence official told The Lund Report last June. “Regence wants to do everything in its power to avoid having to pay hefty claims and would prefer other insurers take those people on.” 
 
Even Mike Kreidler, Washington state’s insurance commissioner weighed in, saying Regence was among the insurers that appeared to be getting rid of the sick and only keeping those who are healthy, calling this a serious problem.
 
In Oregon, Regence has also lost members, raised rates, canceled policies and suffered from innumerable complaints over slashed benefits.  Last May it began shifting its claims processing and individual membership responsibilities to a Fortune 500 company that outsources such work to India. In so doing, the insurer is laying off 23 employees in Oregon and another 33 employees are affected in the four state-region that includes Idaho, Utah and Washington. 
Of those 56 employees, 30 people will remain with Regence and transition from individual membership to group membership responsibilities, according to Regena Friedan, Cambia’s director of public relations.
 
AHIP Touts His Leadership 
 
Now, as a national leader, Ganz is being heralded by AHIP as he assumes the chairmanship, which is a one-year unpaid position that could be extended for a second year. "Mark has played an important leadership role within our organization and is the perfect choice to lead the Board during this time of significant transformation for our industry and country,” Ignagni said. “Our entire membership is grateful for Eric's exceptional leadership during one of the most critical times for our industry.”  
 
Ganz couldn’t be more proud of his new role. “As an industry and as a nation we have an historic opportunity before us to transform healthcare to deliver greater access, transparency, and quality to individuals and their families,” according to his remarks in a press release. “It’s an honor to serve as AHIP’s next board chair, carrying forward a legacy of collaborative leadership that’s committed to making healthcare accountable to consumers and economically sustainable for all Americans.” 
 
Ganz succeeds Eric H. Schultz, President and CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Inc.   
 
Last year, Ganz earned $1.7 million in salary and bonuses from the Regence plans in Oregon and Washington. The two other states – Idaho and Utah – do not disclose health insurance executive salaries.  
 
Diane can be reached at [email protected].
 
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Comments

The best possible antidote is sustained exposure, exposure, and more exposure of the tactics and the human cost of causing reform to fail, in lives and in health. This is not good news for health care in the country; and ultimately not good news for AHIP's perceived position in the health care industry. Moderate conservatism is one thing, and right-wing conservatism another entirely.

Corporate lobbyists have no interests in citizens, except for what they can squeeze from them to further their profits. AHIP, as "the premiere voice of the health insurance industry," has a good foot soldier for their cause. Someone who has convinced Oregonians that Regence is non-profit!

Thank you, Diane for this incisive and compelling report. It makes painfully clear what the advocates of true health reform in Oregon will face from the corporate opponents who will fight us with their money and influence. The behavior of Regence under Gantz' leadership informs us of what we are fighting for, health care for everyone and no more profit motivated restrictions.