CEO of lobby group for insurers stepping down

CEO of lobby group for insurers stepping down
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Marilyn Tavenner is stepping down as head of the powerful insurance lobby America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) after three years at the helm.

She will be replaced by Matt Eyles, the group’s chief operating officer. Her resignation will be effective June 1.

Eyles said in an interview Wednesday that Tavenner was "certainly the right leader at the right time and has helped improve the association."

He said she made a "personal decision to step down at this time," but that it was an "orderly transition" that was "not based on any surprises."

Tavenner was a former top official in the Obama administration who oversaw the implementation and passage of ObamaCare. She took over AHIP in 2015, just as Republicans swept into power in both the House and Senate with a mandate to dismantle the law.

The group had suffered from some diminished resources, but Tavenner helped make it profitable. The organization turned a $1.2 million profit in 2016, compared to a $2.3 million loss in 2015.

AHIP counts large commercial insurers like Anthem and Cigna among its members, and the group gained 12 new members this year.

But Tavenner’s time at the organization has been turbulent, with Trump’s unexpected victory plunging the industry into bitter fights to try and protect the law.

In addition, three of the country’s five largest insurance companies have left the group.

Asked about the high-profile departures from AHIP in recent years of the large insurers Humana, Aetna and United Healthcare, Eyles indicated AHIP would work to bring them back, saying, "We want to represent everyone."

The insurance industry at large has had mixed results in battles with the Trump administration.

The most recent government funding bill gave insurers two big wins by suspending a tax on health insurance for 2019 and delaying the “Cadillac” tax on high-cost employer-sponsored insurance plans until 2022.

But the White House has also canceled ObamaCare’s cost-sharing reduction payments, which had helped insurers reduce deductibles for low-income people.

In addition, the GOP tax law enacted in December repealed the ObamaCare requirement that every person obtain health insurance or pay a fine — a provision insurers insisted was necessary to prevent people from waiting until they are sick to buy insurance.

According to AHIP, Eyles has worked closely with Tavenner and AHIP members on a range of issues, from health care reform and prescription drug pricing to strengthening employer-provided coverage.

“Matt is one of the most experienced leaders in Washington,” Tavenner said in a statement. “We have partnered together on real solutions that allow health insurance providers to better serve the millions of Americans they work for every day. We worked closely with the Board to plan an effective transition to ensure that under Matt’s leadership, AHIP will continue to be the industry leader for years to come.”

Eyles said short-term goals for the group include getting an ObamaCare stabilization bill included in the coming government funding measure needed by March 23.

Longer term goals include a focus on affordability in health care and bringing down prescription drug prices, which he said would build upon Tavenner's work. 

One area the group will be more focused on is the growing Democratic calls for single-payer health care, which would upend the health insurance business. 

Eyles said the group is touting the "benefits and innovations happening within the private sector."

Updated at 12:35 p.m.