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Health insurers secretly funded $10-$20 million in attack ads

By John Byrne
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 9:09 EDT
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Seen one of those TV ads attacking healthcare reform?

Chances are, it may have been paid for by a health insurance company funneling money through the US Chamber of Commerce — who then funneled it to one of two front groups it created specifically aimed at derailing or watering down the Democrats’ healthcare reform bill.

According to National Journal veteran investigative correspondent Peter Stone, some $10 to $20 million of health insurer money was funneled into the Chamber of Commerce, which then doled it out to its anti-healthcare groups, Campaign for Responsible Health Reform and Employers for a Healthy Economy.

The insurers who contributed to the anti-reform effort purportedly were: Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint.

Each insurer reportedly gave at least $1 million to the campaign, with some insurers contributions totaling in the multi-millions.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurers’ lobbying group, “wanted to do this through a third party because of what happened with the Harry and Louise ads,” a source told Stone. “The goal was to get a message out there to make sure the public understood the serious shortcomings of the legislative proposals.”

The Harry and Louise ads were a highly successful ad campaign that helped unravel President Bill Clinton’s attempts to reform the healthcare industry. But they were paid for directly by the insurance companies, stoking ire among liberals.

Bruce Josten, top lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, refused to comment on the insurers’ donations.

“No comment,” he said. “We never disclose funding or what we’re going to do.”

The Chamber has spent between $70 million and $100 million on their healthcare ad drive to date, Stone says. In June, the Chamber announced they’d be spending up to $100 million on an ad campaign to “promote the free market,” though it’s unclear if the healthcare drive was part of that push.

The following ads ran on behalf of one of the Chamber’s front groups, potentially receiving money from the health insurance industry.

 
 
 
 
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