Cigna CEO on Insurance Companies Getting Grief From Health Care Debate

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," September 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: We told you that part of this process of getting a health care package through is trying to create an enemy or vilify a group. The health insurance industry has, unbeknownst to its own initiatives, proven that — that convenient scapegoat.

Who knows that better than Ed Hanway? Ed is the chairman and CEO of CIGNA health insurance.

And, Ed, talked about again and again, you guys have been like the evildoers when it comes to health care and a convenient sort of a target.

You will, I'm told, be the target against tonight. How do you feel about that and — and constantly being the whipping boy on — on health care reform?

EDWARD HANWAY, CEO, CIGNA CORPORATION: Well, Neil, I don't feel good about it, and particularly because this is an industry, my company, as well as the industry, that, over a year ago, put forward very concrete proposals around guaranteeing coverage for everyone, providing there was individual responsibility to have that coverage, to avoiding or eliminating preexisting conditions, and a host of proposals that would provide greater access to coverage, reduce the cost of health care, and hopefully improve quality.

Those are the president's goals, and we agree with those.

CAVUTO: All right. But he is going to stick you with a $6 billion fee or tab for a lot of this reform. And that could be just the start. There's also talk about a trigger mechanism, which would hold off on a public option, so you guys presumably rein in your cost and savings and do something for the American people.

That almost seems like a gun to your head. Is it?

HANWAY: Well, it certainly is not helpful, I don't think, for those three goals of improved access, better quality, and lower costs.

Adding taxes will not lower costs. It simply adds costs to the system. It's not just us. It's the pharmaceutical companies. It's the medical device providers, the lab companies. So, we are just adding costs there.

CAVUTO: But if that is a means by which he gets you guys on board, that the public option is a threat, but it doesn't happen for awhile, could you live with that?

HANWAY: The public option really won't do much to reduce costs and it certainly won't improve quality. And, ultimately, it will reduce choice for the American people.

The most imported thing about this whole debate, Neil, is, this is very personal for all of us, for you and for I and for all the American public. We need to find ways in whatever way possible to reduce costs and improve access. I don't think a public plan does that.

CAVUTO: All right.

Ed Hanway, I would like to try to get back to you a little later in this truncated broadcast, but thank you in the meantime.


CAVUTO: Back to the CEO of CIGNA Corporation, Ed Hanway.

And, Ed, I apologize to you as well with the craziness of today's broadcast.

I do want to follow up on something Senator Lieberman mentioned here, that the — the deal is essentially made on the broadest of concepts, that not going for a public option, at least not right away, not throwing a lot of onerous costs on there, trying to cover folks for preexisting conditions, trying to cover folks for portability of coverage.

And therein lies your deal.

HANWAY: Well, we need to understand exactly what the trigger is that will bring the public option back on the table. I would be very interested in that. And, obviously, I have not seen and haven't heard that.

CAVUTO: Now, your industry is afraid of this trigger thing and that, obviously, you can't compete on price and all of that stuff, so that it would be like a Trojan horse. It would be really meant to snuff you out, right?

HANWAY: Well, we have to be sure that we can fulfill our end of the responsibilities that will be asked of us. And if we are going to improve access and get costs down, if we're going to improve quality, we think there are absolutely ways to do that. And the private industry can do that, and we have put forward proposals that do it.

And, so, we continue to view people who have made the public option be the litmus test for whether you're for reform or not to not be looking at the real core issues that we ought to be dealing with.

CAVUTO: Could I ask you a very cynical question, Ed, right up front? The drug industry decided to support health care reform efforts, and even paid for a $150 million advertising campaign to showcase that, also promised, you know, untold savings. And no one sent letters to their CEOs requesting details on how much they pay their executives or where they take their retreats.

Your industry didn't. And you have gotten a lot of letters demanding how much you pay your top people and where you go on retreats. It's weird.

HANWAY: Well, we are going to comply with those requests.

CAVUTO: Are you really? You're going to answer them?

HANWAY: We are going to do the best we can to give the information to those people who are asking for it.

CAVUTO: But a lot of that information is publicly discernible. Why you couldn't back to a Congressman Waxman and say, well, it's on the Internet or there's a SEC filing readily available?

HANWAY: We want to be part of the solution here. So, we're going to provide information, to the extent we can.

Yes, you're right. A lot of it is public.

CAVUTO: So, you don't feel he's on a witch-hunt?

HANWAY: Well, I'm not going to say that he's on a witch-hunt. No, I'm not.

What I am going say is, we need to get by those issues and start talking about what is really going to make health care more affordable for the American people. That's what we would like to do.

CAVUTO: All right.

Thank you for your patience, Ed. Very good seeing you. Best of luck.

HANWAY: Good seeing you.

CAVUTO: And he's been competing with awful wind here, too. I don't know. Every time he said that he might fight some things here, the wind just kicked up. I don't know.


CAVUTO: All right.

Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.