The fact that the insurance industry and AHIP are behind the health care attack ads from the Chamber of Commerce is something we (and others) have suspected for months now. It’s finally been proven by Peter Stone at the National Journal:

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.

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.

All of this happened at the time the insurance industry said they were in favor of reform:

In late October, Ignagni wrote in a letter to the Washington Post defending a health insurer-funded study critical of congressional cost estimates, "Let me be clear and direct, health plans continue to strongly support reform." However, by that time money was already flowing through AHIP to the chamber to fund its negative ads.

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.

For the record, that’s enough money to provide up to 3,000 families health insurance for a year, if the insurance companies had any interest in actually providing health care to people.

This reflects poorly on everyone involved. The Chamber of Commerce – ostensibly a principles interest group with its own constituency and goals – is revealed to be nothing more than a front group for hire. And the insurance companies and AHIP not only lied about their support for reform (as we’ve known all along), but lacked the courage of their convictions to put their money into their opposition publicly.

And of course, it goes without saying that the Chamber ads were of the worst sort – full of distortions, hyperbole, and flat out lies.

Questions remain. Exactly how much has the Chamber received from the insurance industry? Have they received other funding for their campaigns on other issues? And how much money is the insurance industry funneling into other front groups to oppose reform? (The group 60 Plus, for example, has ads remarkably similar to the Chamber of Commerce ads.)

One thing is clear, however: When Americans see an ad opposing health reform, they have good reason to believe the insurance industry is behind it.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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