no thanks!…

Posted on Friday 19 November 2010

These articles chronicle something pretty remarkable. The American Health Insurance Plans spent $86 million to oppose the Health Care Bill in 2009, funneling it through the US Chamber of Congress. And since the US Chamber of Congress was a huge funding source for the midterm elections, you can bet they spent a mint in 2010 too! As I listen to the outcry that President Obama won’t fight [which I suspect is the current Republican Talking Point campaign in action], I find myself being pretty impressed that he must be a pretty good fighter after all, because he beat them by getting the Health Care legislation passed, against a small fortune in lobbying money. And I expect that the reason that the Public Option didn’t make it has something to do with that money too [as well as the Midterm elections].

In 2009, a single $86.2 million contribution from the health insurance industry’s largest trade association, AHIP, accounted for almost half of the Chamber of Commerce’s total contributions. Much of that money was dedicated to the Chamber’s then-escalating campaign against the health care reform bill – a campaign the Chamber characterized as an advocacy effort on behalf of the broader business community…

In his State of American Business Address earlier this year, Chamber CEO Tom Donohue bemoaned the plight of business owners. "Think for a moment about the nation’s job creators – the men and women who run our small and large business," he said. "Most of these job creators would like nothing more than to keep their workers employed, create new jobs, and bring some hope and relief to families struggling without a paycheck. But… [t]hey see health care legislation that contains a burdensome mandate on employers and virtually no meaningful reforms to improve quality or control costs."

Last July, Donohue warned that the health care bill would "raise rates on small businesses," and this September, the Chamber hosted a fly-in day for small business owners to lobby legislators to eliminate one of the legislation’s controversial revenue streams. However, a review of the Chamber’s 990 disclosure forms reveals that most of the Chamber’s contributions other than the giant AHIP cash drop came from businesses large enough to be able to cut a check for over $100,000.

According to IRS data, the AHIP contribution alone constituted 42 percent of the Chamber’s total incoming contributions. Not counting that single contribution, the Chamber received 15 contributions of a million dollars or more, for 13 percent of its total contributions; 64 contributions between $250,000 and $1 million for another 14 percent, and 229 contributions between $100,000 and $250,000, for yet another 14 percent. Taken altogether, those 309 contributions above $100,000 accounted for 83 percent of the Chamber’s total intake. According to Bloomberg, the Chamber spent $45.5 million on their campaign against the bill in 2009, and kept spending tens of millions up until Congress enacted the legislation…

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 Cigna Corp. of Philadelphia, gave the money to the Chamber in 2009 as Democrats increased criticism of the industry, according to a person who requested anonymity because laws don’t require identifying funding sources. The Chamber got the money from the America’s Health Insurance Plans as the industry urged Congress to drop a plan to create a competing government-run insurance plan.

“Clearly the secrecy was important to industry,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, said in an interview. The group tracks money in politics and isn’t affiliated with a political party. “Eighty-six million dollars is an astonishing sum,” she said. The spending on the Chamber 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 expenditures. The spending reflects the insurers’ attempts to influence the bill, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will provide coverage to 32 million previously uninsured Americans, after Democrats in Congress and the White House put more focus on regulation of the insurance industry. The $86.2 million paid for advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill, said Tom Collamore, a Chamber of Commerce spokesman. The Chamber said in a statement it used the funds to “advance a market-based health-care system and advocate for fundamental reform that would improve access to quality care while lowering costs.”

The organizations disclosed the funding yesterday in annual tax records required under U.S. law. The Chamber’s records show it received $86.2 million from a single group, which a second person briefed on the transaction by those involved identified as Washington-based America’s Health group…
Critics Pounce on Insurers’ Lobby Efforts
Consumer advocates call $86 million in payments to Chamber of Commerce to defeat health care reform duplicitous
Insurance Networking News
by Bill Kenealy
November 18, 2010

The money the health insurance industry paid to lobby against health care reform is eliciting criticism. Bloomberg reports that health insurers spent $86 million to blunt health care reform passage in 2009. The money was allegedly funneled through America’s Health Insurance Plans [AHIP] to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which paid for polling and advertisements attacking the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The size of the effort if not the revelation itself, drew criticism from both consumer advocates and the Obama Administration.

“Insurance companies and their allies were desperate to preserve their ability to discriminate against you if you had a preexisting condition, drop your care when you got sick and limit the amount of care you could receive in a year or a lifetime,”Assistant to the President for Special Projects Stephanie Cutter wrote in a posting on the White House blog. “Thankfully, they didn’t succeed, but some folks still want to take us back to the bad old days when insurance companies had all the power and doctors and patients took a back seat.”

The news of the payments casts statements made by AHIP during the crafting of health care reform in a different light. “Health plans strongly support comprehensive, bipartisan health care reform and have proposed sweeping insurance market reforms and new consumer protections to ensure that every American has guaranteed access to affordable health care coverage,” AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni said in statement in October 2009. “As the process progresses, health plans will continue to work to advance bipartisan legislation this year that will cover all Americans, make coverage more affordable, and improve quality”…
Just think about it for a moment. The American Health Insurance Plans and the US Chamber of Congress spent $86 million dollars in 2009 and undoubtedly a similar amount in 2010 hiding behind a recent Supreme Court decision by the BUSH COURT that campaign contributions didn’t have to be reported or limited. Now we’re supposed to join a loud throng that Obama is a wimp? No thanks! He beat their asses where it counted…

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