Aetna departure delivers second big blow to AHIP

Another top-five health insurance company is ditching the industry lobbying group as a new CEO attempts to right the ship.

Aetna, which is in the process of buying competitor Humana, is not renewing its membership in America's Health Insurance Plans for 2016, a spokeswoman for the Hartford, Conn.-based health insurer confirmed Tuesday. This comes several months after UnitedHealth Group, the nation's largest insurer, made the same announcement and said its interests “are no longer best represented by AHIP.”

“We will continue to partner with groups that are working, as we are, toward expanding access to high-quality, affordable healthcare,” Aetna's spokeswoman said. She did not clarify what groups Aetna will work with. Aetna has already enlisted several boutique lobbying firms to help obtain federal approval of its Humana acquisition.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini sits on AHIP's board of directors, as does Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. AHIP still counts almost every other U.S. health insurance company as a member, including Anthem and several other Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates. But losing Aetna soon after UnitedHealth raises questions about whether the lobbying giant has the backing of the powerful industry.

AHIP CEO Marilyn Tavenner, who came to AHIP late last year just months after stepping down as CMS administrator, defended her organization in a statement. But the group did not say whether other members were also considering abandoning their membership.

“AHIP's successful advocacy record speaks for itself,” Tavenner said in the statement, pointing to recent Capitol Hill wins such as the tucked into the budget deal. “Our members depend on AHIP to advance their key priorities, to strengthen the public-private programs that provide coverage for millions of Americans, and to deliver solutions that improve access to high-quality, affordable care for consumers.”

Tavenner took over for Karen Ignagni, who stepped down as AHIP's CEO after 22 years with the organization to lead EmblemHealth, a New York-based health insurer.

Correction, Jan. 5, 2016:

An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized AHIP's tax filing as showing the association is struggling financially. An apparent decline in revenue reflects additional advocacy spending related to health reform, an AHIP spokeswoman said.

Shannon Muchmore

Shannon Muchmore reports from Washington on health politics and policy. Before joining Project Japan in 2015, she was the health reporter at the Tulsa (Okla.) World. She has a bachelor’s degree in news editorial journalism from Oklahoma State University.

Bob Herman

Bob Herman covers the health insurance industry and other healthcare news. Before joining Project Japan in 2014, he covered hospital finance as a reporter and editor at Becker’s Hospital Review. He has a bachelor's degree from Butler University in Indianapolis



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