Health Insurers Seek Fair Debate

THE United States health-insurance industry is hoping for a constructive debate on reform, but it is concerned that there will be a titanic struggle with the White House, insurers and industry analysts say.

"We are not the enemy, despite what Hillary Rodham Clinton says," said Claire del Real, spokeswoman for the Health Care Leadership Council.

Whether speaking at lunches or on the radio, insurers are trying to convince people that private industry is best suited to manage health care. They have taken a low-key, almost academic approach. But they say the debate may get nasty if Mrs. Clinton's speech to health-care workers last week is an indication. In the speech, she said the industry is racked by "price-gouging, cost-shifting, and unconscionable profiteering."

Industry spokesmen are concerned such language will interfere with reform. "This is a big enough problem that it needs total cooperation between both groups to get it done," said Dan Kaferle, spokesman for Travelers Corporation.

While insurers lack the political clout of the White House, analysts believe that they bring pressure to bear on Congress and the administration.

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