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America's Health Insurance Plans takes second big blow with Aetna leaving

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Another top-five health insurer is ditching the industry lobbying group, which is struggling with revenue problems as a new CEO attempts to right the ship.

Aetna Inc., which in the process of buying competitor Humana Inc., is not renewing its membership in America's Health Insurance Plans for 2016, a spokeswoman for the Hartford, Conn.-based health insurer confirmed Tuesday. This comes several months after UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation's largest insurer, made the same announcement and said its interests “are no longer best represented by AHIP.”

“We will continue to partner with groups that are working, as we are, toward expanding access to high-quality, affordable healthcare,” Aetna's spokeswoman said. She did not clarify what groups Aetna will work with. Aetna has already enlisted several other boutique lobbying firms to help obtain federal approval of its Humana acquisition.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini sits on AHIP's board of directors, as does Humana CEO Bruce Broussard. AHIP still counts almost every other U.S. health insurance company as a member, including Anthem Inc. and several other Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates. But losing Aetna soon after UnitedHealth raises questions about whether the lobbying giant has the backing of the powerful industry.

AHIP CEO Marilyn Tavenner, who came to AHIP late last year just months after serving as the administrator of CMS, defended her organization in a statement. But the group did not say whether other members were also considering abandoning their membership.

“AHIP's successful advocacy record speaks for itself,” Ms. Tavenner said in the statement, pointing to recent Capitol Hill wins such as the moratorium on the health insurance tax tucked into the budget deal. “Our members depend on AHIP to advance their key priorities, to strengthen the public-private programs that provide coverage for millions of Americans, and to deliver solutions that improve access to high-quality, affordable care for consumers.”

Ms. Tavenner took over for Karen Ignagni, who stepped down as AHIP's CEO after 22 years with the organization to lead EmblemHealth, a New York-based health insurer.

AHIP has been struggling financially, with tax records showing revenue declining by more than $30 million between 2010 and 2013.

Bob Herman and Shannon Muchmore write for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Business Insurance.