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Report: AHIP Used Third-party TV Ads to Oppose Health Reform

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 13, 2010

Even as the health insurance lobby was publicly claiming to support healthcare reform last summer, the nation's largest insurers were reportedly funneling as much as $20 million through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to fund attack TV ads to hobble the effort, National Journal reports this week.

That money came from Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group, and Wellpoint, which are all members of the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, according to two unnamed healthcare lobbyists sourced by the 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 multimillion-dollar donations," the National Journal reported.

In a statement Wednesday, Robert Zirkelbach, press secretary for AHIP, said, "Reform needs to make healthcare more affordable, particularly for small businesses that struggle to provide coverage to their employees. We share the very serious concerns employers have raised about provisions that will increase health care costs, including new premium taxes that will hit small businesses hard. So when the employer community—our customers—asked us to contribute to their campaign, we readily agreed."

Chamber of Commerce officials did not immediately return calls from HealthLeaders Media seeking comment Wednesday. But in an e-mail message reported by the New York Times, Bruce Josten, executive vice president of government affairs for the chamber, wrote: "The chamber is fully engaged in the health care reform debate because it's critical to the future of our economy, and our members are the ones who pay for health care. We welcome any donors/funders to our efforts."

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