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Report: Insurers Were Quietly Funding Anti-Reform Ads

Earlier this year, it appeared to many people (this writer included) that the insurance industry might be a willing partner with reform. They hated the public option, yes, but in principle the insurers--or, at least, the large insurers--could do just fine in a reformed system. But as the debate dragged on, that hope dissipated. By the fall, the industry was in full war mode, famously releasing a series of studies designed to undermine the reform bills moving through Congress.

At the time, Karen Ignani, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, insisted her group still supported reform. But even as she was saying and writing such things, her group was quietly raising money to finance anti-reform advertisements through a separate organization.

Peter Stone, who knows as much about lobbying as any reporter on the planet, has the scoop over at National Journal:

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 multi-million 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 healthcare advertising budget. ...

The fund raising started last September and continued through December using AHIP as a conduit to avoid a repeat of the political flack that hit the insurance industry after it famously ran its multi-million dollar "Harry and Louise" ads to help kill health care reforms during the Clinton administration.

"AHIP wanted to do this through a third party because of what happened with the Harry and Louise ads," said a lobbying source. "The goal was to get a message out there to make sure the public understood the serious shortcomings of the legislative proposals.".