Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

November 17, 2010

INSURERS SPENT HEAVILY TO KILL HEALTH CARE REFORM.... I know there are some critics of the Affordable Care Act on the left who considered the entire reform initiative a "giveaway" to insurance companies.

But private insurers really didn't see it that way.

Health insurers last year gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million that was used to oppose the health-care overhaul law, according to tax records and people familiar with the donation.

The insurance lobby, whose members include Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Philadelphia-based Cigna Corp., gave the money to the Chamber in 2009 as Democrats were increasing their criticism of the industry, according to one person who requested anonymity because laws don't require identifying funding sources. The Chamber of Commerce received the money from the Washington-based America's Health Insurance Plans when the industry was urging Congress to drop a plan to create a competing public insurance option.

The spending exceeded the insurer group's entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber's $214.6 million in 2009 spending.

According to a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson, the business lobby used the insurance industry's $86.2 million to pay for "advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill."

Keep in mind, this only covers anti-reform spending in 2009 -- the crusade to kill the initiative grew even more intense earlier this year, in the months leading up to March passage, though those spending figures are not yet available.

What's more, the $86.2 million from insurance companies only reflects the money the industry quietly gave to the Chamber, all while saying publicly that insurers would play a constructive role.

Steve Benen 12:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

What is wrong with this country, repubs are trying to kill health care, they are trying to kill jobs programs and unemployment compensation, everything that would help ordinary people. They are fighting for tax cuts for the super rich who have been making out like bandits, and they are representing oil companies, insurance companies and the bankers.
If any political party in Europe acted like these people they would be thrown out in a heartbeat. The people would not stand for this nonsense.
Why do Americans put up with this and vote them in.The party trying to help people has just lost the power to do so!

Posted by: joan on November 17, 2010 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

"The Chamber of Commerce received the money from the Washington-based America's Health Insurance Plans when the industry was urging Congress to drop a plan to create a competing public insurance option."

So AHIP fought to kill the public option, succeeded, and this somehow argues AGAINST the bill being a giveaway to AHIP. Bwah?

Posted by: Tom Allen on November 17, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, the insurance industry is considerably more sophisticated than Steve Benen. They simply played both sides of the fence.

Perhaps Mr. Benen missed this sentence: "The Chamber of Commerce received the money from the Washington-based America's Health Insurance Plans when the industry was urging Congress to drop a plan to create a competing public insurance option."

The insurance industry doesn't lobby for or against "reform". They lobby for provisions that they like (e.g. individual mandate) and against provisions that they oppose (e.g. public option).

It was highly effective and this post does absolutely nothing to refute critics who said that the final bill was a give-away to the industry.

Posted by: square1 on November 17, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

The real truth will come out when we find out just how much they paid into the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers efforts to elect people who vow to REPEAL health care?

Then we'll know the score.

Posted by: jjm on November 17, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

The insurance corporations played a game of "good cop, bad cop" in which the Republicans (and the Chamber Of Commerce et al) played the "bad cop" and the Senate Democrats played the "good cop".

They succeeded in getting single-payer "off the table" and in getting advocates of single-payer excluded from "the debate" before it even started.

They succeeded in killing the public option.

They succeeded in killing Medicare expansion.

They succeeded in getting their long-time goal, the 30-year-old Republican proposal to require every single American to buy medical insurance from the for-profit corporations and requiring the taxpayers to subsidize their profits.

In return, they accepted some modest regulation of their worst, most egregious, most murderous practices -- the implementation of many of which regulations was deferred for several years, allowing plenty of time for them to be rolled back before they event take effect.

And sensible liberal bloggers told us that this was the equivalent of Social Security, Medicare, the New Deal, the Great Society and the Civil Rights Act all rolled into one.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on November 17, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Please. This was money well spent to turn the reform effort into a giveaway to the insurance industry instead of a brake on their corrupt practices. I'd say they got good value for their dollars.

Posted by: I beg your pardon? on November 17, 2010 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

If you click on the link and read the article, you'll find that Steve also cut short his quote just before this sentence:

"The expenditures reflect the insurers’ attempts to influence the bill after Democrats in Congress and the White House put more focus on regulation of the insurance industry."

Yep, no giveaway to AHIP at all.

Posted by: Tom Allen on November 17, 2010 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

I see that the true progressives are already doing back flips to make this news fit their anti-Obama narrative. Let's think back to the healthcare debate. Remember -- the line was that President Obama NEVER WANTED the public option. Not that he and the Dems were up against a ton of money opposing it. The smear was that he's a "corporatist" who was scheming to give the insurance companies a raft of customers. Well, if the insurance companies thought they had the President in their pocket, why spend $86 million to defeat something he never wanted in the first place?

Posted by: ER on November 17, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter ER:

Insurance industry lobbying didn't win Obama over in May 2009. It won him over in December 2009.

LOL. Even if true (and it isn't), who cares?

Posted by: square1 on November 17, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

AZ REPUBLICANS TO POPULATION: DROP DEAD. Here is a story to warm the hearts of insurance companies  http://www.npr.org/tablet/#story/?url=/2010/11/11/131215308/arizona-budget-cuts-put-organ-transplants-at-risk  Summary: The State of Arizona CUT already approved organ transplants to save $4 million, NPR story this morning.

FIRST you cut those who would die without transplants.  NEXT you cut those who need medication to live like AIDS patients. THEN, you cut surgery for the ill and injured.  Finally you cut insurance for all poor people so they die sooner and cut out the surplus useless population.

A better way is to

TAX the über rich.  IT is disgusting waste tax cuts on people who buy $10,000 Hermes handbags, $200,000 Ferraris, and $30,000 Rolex watches then CUT the health insurance of the impoverished.                       

I would be mortified to wear a $1000 pair of shoes when The State of Arizona CUTS already approved organ transplants to save $4 million in its version of Medicaid. I would be ashamed to show my face if I cut meager unemployment benefits to give people like Meg Whitman another few million to blow on political consultants. 

Tax the excess wealth of the über rich now.  

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on November 17, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

They ought to cut to the chase and rename it The Chamber of Oligarchy and Lobbying Services.

Posted by: john R on November 17, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Get mad at AHIP all we want, but this is all about their business model and we should not be surprised. The insurance companies are in a line of work that can't be funded by the private sector. They need tax dollars to operate.

If the feds said no gov' assistance for health insurance their rolls would shrink dramatically. The fact that the insurance co's had run up against the existing limit of the private market helps explain why they split their money, somewhat, still tiled to the GOP, in 2009 and 2010. They wanted the mandate but now want as few strings attached to cost containment as possible.

The GOP congress probably could not have delivered the insurance mandate given the ideological position of many of its voters and reps. Dems could and the AHIP was cautiously supportive of them to get it done. Now it's unlikely that Dems will voluntarily strip out the cost containment provisions in the law but Repubs will with gusto.

Just business.

Posted by: angler on November 17, 2010 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

A union member can request to exempt himself from paying for the union's political activity.

So why don't we make a similar law governing group health insurance premiums? Allow employees to opt out of paying for insurance companies' political activities. Make it easy to opt out, and make sure that it decreases the premium paid in every paycheck. Let people pay higher premiums if they approve of the lobbying that insurance companies do.

When it comes to paychecks, group insurance premiums are treated similarly to union dues. They're both deducted from paychecks and the money is sent to a private entity that has an "everyday" function (negotiating with employers, paying doctors) and a political function.

Pushing such a bill would be a big winner, politically, for Democrats. It would unify Democrats and split Republicans. The GOP is very good at splitting the Dems; let's go on offense.

Posted by: Holdie on November 17, 2010 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

I think it would be more accurate to say that insurers were against certain types of health reform and some provisions of the ACA.

Posted by: doubtful on November 17, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

According to a Chamber of Commerce spokesperson, the business lobby used the insurance industry's $86.2 million to pay for "advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill."

"Grass roots". They keep using that term. I do not think it means what they think it means.

Posted by: josef on November 17, 2010 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

For all of those that say this doesn't really mean that the health insurance companies wanted to kill the bill entirely, I would ask why that is what the Chamber of Commerce ads they funded were geared towards. Those ads did not say "The Affordable Care Act is a good idea as long as it doesn't include a public option" those ads attacked the entire bill and the very idea that the government should be getting involved.

Posted by: tanstaafl on November 18, 2010 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

Keep focusing on your blog. I love how we can all express our feelings. This is an extremely nice blog here :)

Posted by: Prescription Glasses on November 23, 2010 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK
Post a comment









Remember personal info?










 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly