Thursday, January 14, 2010
Health Insurance Industry Contributed Millions To Covert Anti-Reform Ad Campaign
Health Insurers Funded Chamber Attack Ads
National Journal Tuesday, January 12, 2010
By Peter H. Stone
Just as dealings with the Obama administration and congressional Democrats soured last summer, six of the nation's biggest health insurers began quietly pumping big money into third-party television ads aimed at killing or significantly modifying the major health reform bills moving through Congress.
That money, between $10 million and $20 million, came from Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint, according to two health care lobbyists familiar with the transactions.
The companies are all members of the powerful trade group America's Health Insurance Plans.
The funds were solicited by AHIP and funneled to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help underwrite tens of millions of dollars of television ads by two business coalitions set up and subsidized by the chamber. Each insurer kicked in at least $1 million and some gave multimillion-dollar donations.
"There's no question that AHIP has quietly solicited monies from their members which were funneled over to the chamber for their ads," said a source. The total donated by the health insurers, according to one estimate, was as much as one-quarter of the chamber's total health care advertising budget.
A spokesman for Kaiser said it contributed funds to AHIP last year for positive ads on health care reform, and that AHIP has told the insurer that none of its monies were sent to the chamber.
Last August was bruising for the health insurance industry: Obama and congressional leaders attacked its abuses and profits and AHIP President Karen Ignagni warned publicly that "the vilification strategy isn't going to get health reform passed."
In late October, Ignagni wrote in a letter to the Washington Post defending a health insurer-funded study critical of congressional cost estimates, "Let me be clear and direct, health plans continue to strongly support reform." However, by that time money was already flowing through AHIP to the chamber to fund its negative ads.
More of the shame