Yesterday the nation’s biggest health insurers acknowledged funding TV ads designed to kill the health-care overhaul measure, after a published report said the spots were paid for in secret to avoid a public-relations storm. The trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans said it put up funds on the behalf of its members. AHIP represents the nation’s largest insurers, including Aetna Inc. AHIP acknowledged paying for the ads after a story appeared in the National Journal’s online editions late Tuesday.
Citing health-care lobbyists, the National Journal said each insurer secretly put up at least $1 million and that the organization as a whole contributed $10 million to $20 million dating back to last summer. The Journal reported that AHIP solicited the funds and funneled them to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to underwrite the ads. Two business coalitions set up and subsidized by the chamber were responsible for the ad, the story said.
AHIP started funding the ads last summer as the industry came under fire from lawmakers and the Obama administration over high profit growth and abuses. But AHIP did not want to fund the effort directly, the Journal story said, for fear of running up against the same public relations problems that the industry encountered with its “Harry and Louise” ads that helped kill health-care reform under the Clinton administration.
AHIP did not fund the entire effort, as the U.S.Chamber of Commerce spent $70 million to $100 million on the ads.