Insurance Companies Tried to Rig the Game

This shouldn’t come as news to anyone. The health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies have spent millions of dollars to try to stop, slow down or derail healthcare reform. A recent article in the National Journal has detailed some of the money spent. The sums are staggering. Some on Capitol Hill are calling for investigations. Why? We know that insurance companies have used every tool at their disposal because they had to. A robust national healthcare plan (public option) would cost the health insurance business billions of dollars. If they are found with their hand in the cookie jar, the American people will be — upset. From their standpoint, so what? It isn’t as if the American people are going to stop using health insurance.

This is why I’ve called for Progressives to stop trying to fix this healthcare legislation. Currently, it is unfixable. We’re fighting too many battles on too many fronts. Pass what we have right now. Then, fix corporate influence on government. Corporations are nothing more than piles of contractual agreements. In essence they are nothing but paper. Paper should not be allowed to have a say in how our government works. People should have a say. Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt took on big business and won. We have to do the same thing.

From McJoan:

The fallout from the National Journal article detailing how the health insurance industry bankrolled third-party efforts to kill the reform bill continues. To recap:

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.

“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 health care advertising budget….

The U.S. Chamber has spent approximately $70 million to $100 million on the advertising effort, according to lobbying sources. It’s unclear whether the business lobby group went to AHIP with a request to help raise funds for its ad drives, or whether AHIP approached the chamber with an offer to hit up its member companiesThe U.S. Chamber has spent approximately $70 million to $100 million on the advertising effort, according to lobbying sources. It’s unclear whether the business lobby group went to AHIP with a request to help raise funds for its ad drives, or whether AHIP approached the chamber with an offer to hit up its member companies

That’s led to call for investigations of the insurers. Wendell Potter argues that these investigations should occur before Congress passes this bill, a bill that reward the companies for their duplicity by sending them millions of new customers, most of whom will be forced into the deal. That’s unlikely to happen, but what the scandal can do is strengthen the hand of the House on two provisions: the national exchange and imposing anti-trust laws on the companies.

Ben Nelson insisted upon having the anti-trust exemption preserved, against the wishes of the a very large part of the Democratic Senate caucus. Lawmakers who have insisted on ending the anti-trust exemption have gained somemomentum with the revelation:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and 18 Democratic colleagues released a letter calling for the final health bill to include a provision stripping the insurance industry of its exemption.

“There is simply no reason for health insurance and medical malpractice insurance companies to be exempt from Federal laws prohibiting price fixing, bid rigging, and market allocation,” the lawmakers wrote. “These acts hurt consumers, drive up health care costs, and should be prohibited in the health insurance industry, as they are in virtually every other industry.”
….
But major health insurance companies represented by AHIP say they are not at all worried about the Democrats’ threat to end their anti-trust exemption.

“We could care less,” said an industry source.

The industry source said that repealing the anti-trust exemption would impact property casualty insurers that share information to set rates. Large healthcare companies that have many policyholders would have enough internal data to operate without much disruption, the source said.

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    I’m not in the whole reactionary, frustrated kill the bill vote for Republicans group.  I think there have probably been some good fixes in conference and I am looking forward to this bill going into law. 

    A strong supporter of the public option it was whittled down to nothing.  However I do like the national exchanges.  The Dems by letting the Senate get out of hand could loose their seat in Mass.  That would be something else to hang around Lieberman’s neck. 

    He of course loving to grab center stage forgot to look at the big picture.  The public option was nothing at that point but he made a big stink about it and here we are with voter fatigue, and anger at the sheer stubbornness of those politicians completely sold out to the status quo.

    All that being said if this bill brings down cost for the middle class and says to the 1% uber wealthy – you need to contribute to the well being of this Country that has been so good to you – with its military, infrastructure and system of laws, and this bill makes them contribute their fair share – based on the giveaways they have enjoyed the past decade then I can support this bill.

    The bottom line is that there is wide agreement across a broad market sector of the public, doctors, and business that the monopolies the insurance companies currently enjoy have abused our economy for decades.

    In a Country based on a system of checks and balances we have to restore those checks and balances to the Insurance Industry. 

    Rolling back the anti-trust exemption and putting the power of the people onto the bargaining table not chopped up into 50 little pieces but through a “national” exchange is one way to do that.

    Better times are on the way and more money in our ‘national” pockets will make for a better more vibrant market and Country that can better compete globally than just the 1% getting richer and richer and richer and being the only ones benefiting from our laws.

    That we might help single working mothers and those less fortunate than ourselves is the real mandate from above.  It will be a better world for all when we all start doing the right thing….right Joe

    Paul Burke
    Author-Journey Home 

  2. Interesting that youre not calling for an investigation into the huge sums of taxpayer money that were spent ( and will continue to be spent in perpetuity) by Obama and the Democrats  to buy the votes of Nelson, Landreiu, et al

    That kind of bribery doesn’t bother you?

    What about the deals Obama cut with Big Pharma and the AMA to buy their silence?

    How ’bout the money that was just handed over to the unions so that their health benefits could remain untaxed while everyone else with a similar plan gets a big tax increase?

    That kind of bribery not bother you either?

  3. The HMOs and health insurers have rigged the game.  This is a terrible bill, and every Democrat should vote against it.  I will vote against Gillibrand and Schumer if they vote for this effort to steal money from the poor and middle class and give it to the rich.

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Errington C. Thompson, MD

Dr. Thompson is a surgeon, scholar, full-time sports fan and part-time political activist. He is active in a number of community projects and initiatives. Through medicine, he strives to improve the physical health of all he treats.

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