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The New Health Dialogue

A Blog from New America's Health Policy Program

HEALTH POLITICS: AHIP Helped Fund Anti-Reform Ads

Published:  January 13, 2010
Lucy and Ethel

Karen, you’ve got some ‘splainin to do.

In an op-ed this past October in the Washington Post, Karen Ignagni, the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans defended her group’s commitment to reform. Now, a piece in the National Journal reveals her organization was already channeling millions of dollars to help fund anti-reform ads. Peter Stone writes:

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.

The ads were highly critical of the costs of the bills, and also took shots at the public health insurance option included in the House bill. The Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Think Progress, which has been skeptical of insurance industry motives from the start, produced a compilation of some of the Chamber ads (below) and Media Matters fact checks the claims.

In a post on the White House blog, Dan Pfieffer responds to news noting:

It’s no surprise that the insurance companies who profit from the broken status quo would oppose fixing the system.  After all, reform will end insurance industry practices like denying coverage based on preexisting conditions, capping total benefits, and dropping coverage when you get sick and need it most.  But this article should serve as an important reminder of the powerful forces standing in the way of change and of whose bidding opponents of reform are doing.

Kaiser Permanente released a statement saying it was not involved in funding the ads, Politico reports. Meanwhile, AHIP issued a statement saying:

Reform needs to make health care more affordable, particularly for small businesses that struggle to provide coverage to their employees. We share the very serious concerns employers have raised about provisions that will increase health care costs, including new premium taxes that will hit small businesses hard. So when the employer community--our customers--asked us to contribute to their campaign, we readily agreed.           

Oh honestly, Karen…


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