Humana Says Trade Groups Plan Ad Campaign Against Insurer Tax

Humana Inc., the second-biggest provider of Medicare health plans, said business groups plan an advertising campaign to get lawmakers to ease new taxes in President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul.

Stop the HIT, a Washington-based coalition of trade groups, will start the effort during the lame-duck congressional session this year, Heidi Margulis, Humana’s senior vice president for public affairs, told analysts during an investor conference today. Changes to the taxes will be “on the table” as part of talks to cut the U.S. budget deficit, she said.

The campaign’s goal is to change the taxes that the 2010 Affordable Care Act imposes on insurance companies and employers who provide the highest level of coverage. The law puts about $84 billion in new taxes and fees on the insurance industry, meant to finance an expansion of coverage to 32 million people, according to a Bloomberg Industries analysis in September. Carriers say those costs will force them to raise premiums or cut benefits.

“I’ve been involved in politics for years and disruption is a really bad word,” Margulis told analysts during the meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, where Humana is based. “I think you’ll hear more on the airwaves during this period of time, the lame duck, about the impact of the premium tax.”

Margulis said the advertising would be led by business groups like Stop the HIT as insurers “are not the best purveyors of that message, perhaps.”

Tax Structure

Because of the way the tax is structured, it will fall hardest on elderly Medicare patients and small-business plans, said Bruce D. Broussard, Humana’s president, at the conference. The industry will push for a cut, delay or other changes, said Broussard, who’s due to take over as chief executive officer in January.

“Fairness of the tax is an issue,” he said. “It was done in haste and some details need to be corrected,” he said.

Molly Cullen, a spokeswoman for Stop the HIT, didn’t immediately return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment. On its website, the group describes itself as “a diverse group of trade and business associations” that includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers.

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