Now that the Chamber of Commerce has been exposed as nothing but a hack-for-hire for the insurance industry, it’s worth looking at where exactly the insurance company/Chamber ads ran and how much media they bought to gauge the full breadth of duplicity and impact.

Here’s how much the insurance industry, working through the Chamber, spent in their latest untruthful ad buy, which lasted from mid November to the present. The ads, not surprisingly, ran in nine states with Senators and House Representatives who have been on the fence about reform.

Arkansas: $1,076,405
Indiana: $1,813,915
Louisiana: $1,953,065
Maine: $1,558,285
Nevada: $276,770
North Dakota: $538,995
Virginia: $1,342,545

Those are not small numbers. Take North Dakota as an example, where Senator Dorgan recently announced he would not seek re-election and Representative Pomeroy has been swinging between voting yes and no on health reform.

Some very rough calculations lead to the conclusion that the insurance companies bought enough air time so that every household with a television in North Dakota would have seen their ad 100 times over the course of their two month ad campaign. That works out to between one and two viewings every day. In a state like Louisiana, the numbers are higher, with viewers seeing these ads over 160 times, or almost three times a day.

The numbers in other states are similarly high. Here’s the breakdown by state:

Arkansas: Average viewer saw ad 152 times – 2.5 times/day
Connecticut: Average viewer saw ad 71 times – 1.2 times/day
Indiana: Average viewer saw ad 101 times – 1.7 times/day
Louisiana: Average viewer saw ad 163 times – 2.7 times/day
Maine: Average viewer saw ad 107 times – 1.8 times/day
Nevada: Average viewer saw ad 13 times – 0.2 times/day
North Dakota: Average viewer saw ad 100 times – 1.6 times/day
Virginia: Average viewer saw ad 107 times – 1.8 times/day

Every day, voters were being bombarded with lies about health reform. These ads made preposterous claims like calling out "hidden taxes" in the health care bills where none exist. And they’re ubiquitous on the television screens of voters in these states. And all along, these voters didn’t know the insurance industry was behind these ads and was simply protecting its profits.

The insurance industry’s duplicity has fueled calls for tighter restrictions on their bad practices and a repeal of their anti-trust exemption.

Wendell Potter, the former insurance industry insider who first called out the industry’s deception, joined dozens of small business owners in calling on Congress to investigate these ad campaigns yesterday. And today, nineteen Senators (with the support of President Obama) have called on the industry to lose its anti-trust 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.”

The industry’s response? "We could care less."

If the insurance companies want to engage in these kinds of two-faced, lie-filled campaigns – claiming they are for health reform while spending $10-$20 million to buy a front group and advertise against it – then they should no longer enjoy favored anti-trust with the U.S. government. (You can sign a petition calling for investigations here. If you’re a small business owner, sign here.)

And to the voters in the states where the Chamber has run ads (and the Senators and Representatives from there):

The ads you’ve been seeing aren’t what they seem. They were run by a duplicitous industry in an attempt protect their profits at the expense of your health, while trying to avoid the public relations damage they would have taken if they came out against reform. These ads are full of lies, and the lies were paid for by an industry with significant financial motivation. When you see these ads – or any other ads against health reform, because we still don’t know what other front groups the insurance companies might have been funding – consider the source.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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