Health insurance companies gave $86.2 million to the US Chamber of Commerce last year to oppose the health care reform bill, tax records show.
Companies such as UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Cigna Corp. funneled the money into the Chamber of Commerce’s anti-health reform campaign after Democrats began talk of increasing regulations on the insurance industry, Bloomberg reports.
The Chamber of Commerce used the $86.2 million to pay for advertisements, polling, and events to create opposition to the bill.
The funds were used to “advance a market-based health care system and advocate for fundamental reform that would improve access to quality care while lowering costs,” the Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
Health insurance companies tried to appear as if they supported health care reform while working to defeat in it private, according to the liberal blog ThinkProgress.
“In public, health insurance lobbyists and executives promised to support reform and work closely with reform advocates,” said Lee Fang. “In private, the health insurance industry worked with conservative think tanks and media, right-wing front groups, and highly ideological trade associations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber to kill the bill.”
Wendell Potter, the former vice president of corporate communications for Cigna Corp., told ThinkProgress in September that health insurance companies were conducting a “duplicitous public relations campaign.”
The insurance industry planned to charm the public by officially backing health care reform while using a variety of front groups to run negative ads about reform, mobilize anti-reform groups, and coordinate with conservative think tanks, says Potter.
“What I’m trying to do as I write and speak out against the insurance industry I was a part of for nearly two decades is to inform Americans that when they hear isolated stories of long waiting times to see doctors in Canada and allegations that care in other systems is rationed by ‘government bureaucrats,’ someone associated with the insurance industry wrote the original script,” Potter explained to CNN.
“The industry goes to great lengths to keep its involvement in these campaigns hidden from public view,” he added.
The $86.2 million provided by the insurers accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber of Commerce’s spending in 2009.
“With so much at stake we, like other major stakeholders, invested in advocacy,” Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for the insurers, told Bloomberg . “We supported a number of leading health-care advocacy organizations and coalitions that shared our views.”