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Karen Ignagni's AHIP resignation comes at critical time for healthcare reform

King v. Burwell verdict could challenge ACA, a law she and the association supported

The departure of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) President and CEO Karen Ignagni for the same role at New York nonprofit insurer EmblemHealth comes at a critical time for the health insurance industry.

If the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in the forthcoming King v. Burwell case, and says the subsidies on the federal insurance exchange are illegal, the health insurance industry faces vast disruption. As FierceHealthPayer previously reported, premiums may rise as much as 47 percent and close to 10 million Americans may lose coverage.

Even with a verdict favoring the plaintiffs, though, the Affordable Care Act is likely here to stay--and that's largely thanks to Ignagni, Politico noted. In a stark departure from the insurance industry's opposition to Bill Clinton's reform plans, Ignagni and AHIP publicly backed President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law.

In doing so, Ignagni faced the tough task of defending the industry while also acknowledging that it needed reform, Healthcare Payer News reported. She also drew the ire of both political parties. Conservatives thought she conceded too much government oversight of the insurance industry, Politico said, while progressives thought she shaped the law to benefit insurers at the expense of consumers.

Ignagni's career as a health insurance industry lobbyist began in 1993 when she took on the role as president and CEO of the American Association of Health Plans, Healthcare Payer News said. Ten years later, that group merged with the Health Insurance Association of America and formed AHIP, with Ignagni as its leader.

Ignagni's role as EmblemHealth President and CEO begins Sept. 1. The Manhattan-based insurer has about 3.2 million members in New York state.

Jay Gellert, president and CEO of Health Net, told Politico that he wasn't that suprised that Ignagni will move to a nonprofit insurer. "After advocating for something like this, it's fun to actually do it," Gellert said, adding that Ignagni "really believes in this broader idea of quality coverage for all."

In a statement, the AHIP board of directors said it is launching a national search for Ignagni's replacement. "As the voice of our industry, she has worked tirelessly on our behalf with acumen that is unmatched," AHIP Board of Directors Chairman Mark P. Ganz said in the statement.  

AHIP named Dan Durham, executive vice president for strategic initiatives, as its interim CEO.

Durham should serve the organization well, LifeHealthPro said. With healthcare reform behind it, AHIP has turned its attention to the rising cost of prescription drugs and the effect that has on both payers and consumers. Durham spent more than five years as the vice president for policy at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which is pharma's top trade group, LifeHealthPro pointed out.

For more:
- read the Politico story
- read the Healthcare Payer News article
- here's the AHIP statement
- read the LifeHealthPro article

Related Articles:
Karen Ignagni leaving AHIP for EmblemHealth
5 factors will shape what happens to ACA in next 5 years
Panel: ACA will not disappear should Supreme Court side with King v. Burwell plaintiffs
Patient advocates, drug companies hope to block insurers from lowering drug costs
AHIP slams pharma for taking advantage of insurers