The nation's trade association for health insurers sought Tuesday to deflect criticism from Democratic lawmakers by arguing that it is committed to health overhaul legislation.

Democrats have come out strongly against insurers in recent days, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying the insurance industry is employing a "carpet bombing" or "shock and awe" campaign against a public option as part of sweeping health-care overhaul.

Karen Ignagni, president of the America's Health Insurance Plans trade group, told reporters that "a campaign has been launched to demonize health plans."

"The same old Washington politics of 'find an enemy and go to war' is a major step backward, not a step forward," Ignagni said. "This is the playbook of consultants, not consensus."

AHIP represents insurers such as Aetna Inc. (AET), Humana Inc. (HUM), Cigna Corp. (CI) and UnitedHealth Group (UNH).

Ignagni, who said that August would prove a crucial month in the health overhaul debate, said her group would be seeking "to correct the record, and provide assertions on where we are and where we're not."

She did not, however, suggest that the group would run advertisements opposing health overhaul legislation. AHIP has stated that it favors such legislation, but strongly opposes the inclusion of a government-run health insurance plan as part of it.

When asked about the creation of health insurance co-operatives -- believed to be a key element of legislation drafted by the Senate Finance committee -- Ignagni said the rules by which such plans competed would be most important.

"Structure doesn't matter," Ignagni said. "What matters is how the rules work."

Liberal interest groups have ramped up attacks on insurers in recent days. Americans United for Change, a group that supports the Obama administration's push for passage of a health bill, released an ad Monday criticizing Cigna Chief Executive H. Edward Hanway for his 2008 compensation of $12.2 million.

-By Patrick Yoest, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-3554;