An investigative story in the National Journal proves what I have been talking about since I switched from being a spokesman for the health insurance industry to being a vocal critic of it: The industry is laundering millions of dollars through third parties to influence the health care reform legislation and kill provisions that might hinder insurers’ profits. The revelations are so significant that Congress should launch an immediate investigation and hold public hearings before the House and Senate schedule final votes on health care reform.
The National Journal’s investigation shows that 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.
Over the past several months — including during my Congressional testimony in both the House and Senate — I have talked about how health insurance companies and America’s Health Insurance Plans, cannot be trusted, how they never intended to be the good-faith “partners” with President Obama and Congressional leaders to enact reform despite their public assurances that they would be. I have disclosed how the industry has long conducted duplicitous public relations campaigns — one it wants the public to know about, the other that it goes to great lengths to hide from public view.
And, I have explained how the insurers work with its big business and political allies to disseminate lies and misleading information. One of the industry’s biggest shills has long been the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It has funneled money through many other allies, including the Federation of Independent Business, which assisted the industry in killing the “Patient’s Bill of Rights” reform legislation in the 1990s. Congress owes it to the American public to investigate the insurance industry’s involvement in this deception, to determine if laws have been broken and to consider legislation to close loopholes that allow powerful special interests to engage in this kind of activity.
These people cannot be trusted, and their track record proves it. Yet, if there is no public option in the final reform legislation Congress will vote on in the coming weeks, most Americans will have no choice but to all buy overpriced and often inadequate coverage from these shady, greedy insurance companies who care far more about their profits than our health and well-being.