Conservative Health Care Attack Group Hires Industry Lobbyist To Coordinate Strategy On Killing Reform

Today, CNN obtained a memo from Conservatives for Patients’ Rights (CPR) sent to tea party organizations and conservative think tanks urging a coordinated approach to attacking health reform. The memo argues that a synchronized messaging strategy will help “to deliver a decisive ‘knock out’ punch” to health care legislation. CPR was started this year by health clinic and hospital executive Rick Scott, who helps to self-fund advertisements dishonestly smearing health reform. Although Scott has focused his attention on killing the public option, he has never acknowledged working directly with the health insurance industry.

However, yesterday CPR filed its third quarter lobbying disclosures with the U.S. Senate, revealing that the Swift-Boat style attack group has contracted veteran health insurance lobbyist Brian McManus. McManus, while at the same time advising CPR, is currently the Director of Federal Affairs at the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI), a private health insurance trade group advocating Health Savings Accounts. So while CPR has paid McManus at least $60,000, he continues to also collect an income from a private insurer-backed group.

CPR’s call to target an anti-reform message comes on the heel of news that Senate Republicans plan to kill reform by delaying a vote for as long as possible. A Roll Call article today explains that the GOP plan is to “delay, define and derail” health reform:

Senate Republicans, acknowledging they lack the votes to block a health care reform bill outright, have implemented a comprehensive political strategy to delay, define and derail. […] The Republicans also plan to use the time between now and a final floor vote to deliver a narrowly focused message via a series of floor speeches, press conferences and media appearances. And even though GOP Members will discuss their counterproposals for health care reform, criticism of the Democratic bill will be the priority.

Despite the “hatchet job” report last week distorting the Finance Committee bill, the health insurance industry has tried to pretend it still supports reform. However, with the revelation that industry operative McManus is working with CPR, it appears the overall strategy for the insurers is to have Republicans slow down debate so that attack groups will have more time to air ads undermining reform.

McManus has a history of coordinating efforts among right-wing outside groups with lobbyists inside DC to advance legislation favorable to the private health insurance industry. After serving as the Vice President of Golden Rule, a subsidiary of health insurer giant UnitedHealth, McManus founded the “Health Care Freedom Coalition,” a network of astroturf front groups and think tanks. The Coalition works in tandem with organizations like FreedomWorks to promote a deregulation approach to health reform that would hurt consumer protections while adding to insurer profits.

ThinkProgress has documented how insurers have long used a “two-faced” campaign to, on the one hand present themselves to the public as committed to producing change, while at the same time orchestrating front-group based attacks on reform.