Health Inc.

Could Health Overhaul Be Insurers' Windfall?

The insurance industry has become the beleaguered bogeyman of health overhaul. But would the changes proposed so far be so bad for the companies?

angela braly wellpoint ceo

WellPoint CEO Angela Braly WellPoint hide caption

itoggle caption WellPoint

Sure, insurers have resisted a government-sponsored health option that the Obama administration has advanced as a way to keep costs down and competition up. Karen Ignagni, head of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, told All Things Considered's Robert Siegel the other day that a government plan could become just another way to shift costs to those with private insurance.

Lately the odds seem dim a public option will become reality, while measures that would extend insurance coverage to tens of millions of people are going strong. AHIP says it supports universal coverage, including a personal mandate to make sure everyone buys in.

Sounds like good business, right? That's what Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep asks Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint, the largest private insurer as measured by the number of people it covers. Actually, in search of an answer, he puts the question to her again and again.

After a while, Inskeep says, "What makes it so hard for you to acknowledge that you would end up being able to compete for millions of more customers and that you would get greater income from that?"

Well, Braly answers, among other things, new rules governing insurance markets would make it harder for companies like hers to maintain their profit margins, even if there are lots of new customers.

You can hear more on Friday's Morning Edition.

For now you can listen to a snippet of the conversation by clicking on the player below:

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