By Stephanie Condon at CBS News
The White House and other Democrats are increasingly taking aim at the insurance industry to promote health care reform, but one Democratic congressman reportedly says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went too far when she referred to the industry as “villains.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D- Ky.) sent a letter earlier this month to the chief executive of the Louisville-based insurance company, calling Pelosi’s comments “inflammatory” and “misguided,” according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“They are the villains in this,” Pelosi said of the insurance industry in a July press conference. “They have been part of the problem in a major way.”
“Regrettably, with passions inflamed throughout the country, Speaker Pelosi recently made inflammatory statements that assailed the character of health insurers across the board. I unequivocally reject those misguided comments,” Yarmuth wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to Humana executive Michael McCallister, the Courier-Journal reports. “Not only do such overtures distract from a constructive debate, they are simply untrue. That certain insurers have engaged in unscrupulous practices cannot be denied, but to paint an entire industry with a single stroke is unfair.”
Yarmuth reportedly wrote the letter after Humana requested a discussion with Pelosi about her remarks. He said he was concerned about the impressions of the 7,000 Louisville workers employed by Humana.
The insurance industry has warned health care reform supporters that attacking them would be unproductive. The industry is seen as largely responsible for killing health care reform efforts in the 1990’s.
That has not kept President Obama, however, from assailing insurance companies that he said “reaped windfall profits from a broken system.” As doubts have grown about some of the more controversial parts of Mr. Obama’s plans, such as the government-sponsored insurance option, the president has increasingly focused on emphasizing the need for new regulations on the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, outside pro-reform activists are likwise hitting the insurance industry hard. Director Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films, for instance, have launched an online campaign called Sick for Profit that targets well-paid insurance executives.