Prominent Democratic Senator Demands Financial information From Health Insurers

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," August 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Senator Jay Rockefeller, a very prominent Democrat, today is demanding financial information from the top 15 health insurers. Now, that's on the heels of two House Democrats sending a letter to each of the largest carriers, demanding all sorts of financial details.

That industry is against health care reform. We're not saying this is payback time, but my next guest says, well, it's a little fishy. Tevi Troy is a former deputy health secretary.

We invited Senator Rockefeller to join us. He's not available, did not provide a statement. So, hope always springs eternal.

Secretary, what do you make of this, that now there does seem to be a concerted effort targeting these health insurance companies? What is going on?

TEVI TROY, FORMER HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES DEPUTY SECRETARY: Well, I think that there was clearly a shift in strategy by the Democrats within the last month or so.

They realized that there was a lot of concern about their plans about the public option, about overly expansive and overly expensive health care. And they said, well, let's go back to basics: What is the most unpopular group out — group out there? It is the insurance companies.

So, they have started demonizing the insurance companies. Nancy Pelosi was calling them evil and immoral on the House floor.


TROY: And now they're using — they're using their legislative powers to look into it.

CAVUTO: Now, I am not cynical. I am not cynical, but I'm saying, I wonder if the health insurance companies could have saved themselves this agita if they had just written a check ,and gone along, or started an ad campaign in favor — in favor of these reform efforts. Then I wonder if anyone would so much have written them a postcard inquiring about anything.

TROY: You are saying like the pharmaceutical companies did?

CAVUTO: Exactly.

TROY: Look — look — look, it is clear that, at the beginning, there was an attempt to have everybody on board the bus. So, let's all sing kumbaya and get together and let's have people agree that we have got to do health reform.

But, once you start getting to the details or once things start getting hot in the kitchen, people don't necessarily agree on everything. And once they saw that there was some disagreement from the health insurance companies — for good reason from the health insurance companies' perspective -- they have decided to aim their fire those guys.

CAVUTO: All right. But, you know, at least in the past, the drug companies could always come back and say, well, you know, we're saving lives, or, at least in the past, the — we just had the former head of HCA here, the health company, hospital chain, who was saying, yes, but, you know, you come to us and you usually come out alive.

The health insurance guys don't have good P.R., because people think of preexisting conditions that are not covered. They think about portability insurance problems. They think about the stories even the president tells about having coverage yanked at the last second. And they can't get out of their own backyard.

Now, that actually, in reality, is a minority of the issues with these guys. But, nevertheless, it is the image that sticks.

What do they do?

TROY: Well, you are right that they have bad P.R. But you can always improve your P.R. I mean, instead of talking about preexisting conditions, you could talk about the millions of Americans who are insured by private insurance companies, then, who like their insurance. You hear something like 80 percent of Americans are happy with the type of the insurance that they — that they have.

There are people whose lives are saved every day because they have insurance, because they can afford to go to the hospital and — and get treated. Babies are born, because — I mean, there are ways that they can improve their — their P.R. However, they do have a bit of an uphill climb.

CAVUTO: I always thought that the — the health insurance guys should turn it around and say, if you think things stink with us, imagine what it would look like if the government did what we were doing.

They should actually work that negative into a positive, but I — I guess I should not offer marketing ideas, should I?

TROY: Well, no, that is actually a great idea, because, I mean, the health insurance companies, they have a profit motive. You understand that what they're doing is for a reason. When government does these things, it is often arbitrary. And what people are concerned of, when you talk about rationing, everybody does some sort of rationing in health care.

CAVUTO: Right.

TROY: The problem is, if the government does rationing, it seems arbitrary and capricious. And that's what people don't like.

CAVUTO: I guess the — the — the roving machinegun will just fire at another industry soon enough.

Very good having you, Secretary. Thank you very much.

TROY: Well, thanks for having me, Neil.

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