Health Insurers Fund GOP, Secretive Attack Groups To Weaken Reform

Lee Fang points out that after spending millions on trying to kill health care reform, insurers have “massively shifted their campaign giving to Republicans,” and independent groups dedicated to defunding or repealing the law — including this one run by veteran Republican lobbyist Scott Reed to run ads against Democrats:

Meanwhile, lobbyist Reed’s fledgling Commission on Hope, Growth and Opportunity, a 501 (c) (4) raised over half its $25 million goal to run ads in 20 House districts and a few Senate contests, Reed says. Where’s the dough coming from? “The big three stepping into the batter’s box are the financial services industry, the energy industry, and the health insurance industry,” Reed said.

Reed credits the recent Supreme Court ruling knocking down nearly a century of campaign finance laws with the increased fundraising haul for Republican attack groups. “Citizens United opened the door for the unparalleled participation by corporations at the financial level,” Reed told reporter Peter Stone. Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that the health insurance industry met and planned a $20 million dollar “war chest” to be used against its opponents during the election this year. It is still unclear if Reed’s group or the Tea Party caucus donations are part of that fund.

Publicly, the industry is singing a different tune. Issuers have nominally agreed to assist the administration with implementation and promised to work with the government to implement the new provisions — which they claim to fully support.

But they also have their own interests in mind. Not only are insurers leaving certain markets, and raising rates as they see fit, they’re also trying to protect themselves for all of the new regulations and fees. The industry has 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 Republican senators, many of whom recently took to the Senate floor to speak out against any effort to review insurance premium increases. That kind of hands off approach is exactly what they’re purchasing with their contributions.

Therefore, insurers’ donations 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. And, the GOP is obliging.