Why Health Insurers Are Backing Republicans With Campaign Donations By 8:1 Margin

Insurers became the target of the White House’s attacks in the closing days of the health reform debate and so perhaps it’s no surprise that they’re “backing Republicans with campaign donations by an 8-to- 1 margin, favoring the party that’s promised to repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul if it wins back Congress.” Bloomberg’s Drew Armstrong has the scoop:

WellPoint, along with Coventry Health Care Inc. and Humana Inc., gave Republican candidates $315,000 from May through July, according to U.S. Federal Election Commission records. That compares with $41,000 given to Democrats by the three companies as the parties near November elections that will determine who controls the U.S. House and Senate next year.

While Republicans aren’t likely to win the large majorities necessary to override a presidential veto and repeal the health law Obama signed in March, they may be able to slow or stall its implementation, said James Morone, a political science professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. At the same time, the turn to strongly favor Republicans may anger Democrats who had been receptive to insurers’ concerns, he said.

Recall that after initially coming to the table and supporting Obama’s efforts, insurers turned against reform, even after the public option had been taken off the table. They criticized the weak individual mandate and argued that the bill would lead to higher premiums for average Americans.

Since passage of the law, the administration and the President have reached out to insurers, inviting them to meetings with Obama and HHS Secretary Sebelius and weighing their concerns about the forthcoming regulations and the implementation process. But through it all, issuers — while nominally agreeing to assist the administration with implementation — have understood which party has its interests in mind. Issuers have watched as Democrats — led, most recently by the six Democratic Committee chairman with jurisdiction over health care — argued that insurers should have to abide by a strict interpretation of the law and spend 80 to 85% of premium dollars on health care and contrasted that approach to the likes of conservatives like Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who have gone to the mat to weaken the regulations.

Therefore, this donation imbalance shouldn’t be interpreted as an industry endorsement of the GOP’s repeal efforts or its attack on the individual mandate — which could make the industry millions. The industry is turning to the Republican party not so that it could repeal the entire law — that seems highly unlikely — but so that it can push for favorable regulations that don’t cut into industry profits. The want to ensure that Republicans hold their line, like they always have.