Private health insurers used the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to funnel millions of dollars toward a campaign opposing health care reform. From Bloomberg:
Health insurers last year gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million that was used to oppose the health-care overhaul law, according to tax records and people familiar with the donation. [...]
The spending exceeded the insurer group’s entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber’s $214.6 million in 2009 spending. The expenditures reflect the insurers’ attempts to influence the bill after Democrats in Congress and the White House put more focus on regulation of the insurance industry.
I’m not in the least bit surprised that the health insurance industry spend massively trying to shape health care reform, even when they were pretending to want to negotiate with Democrats.
The health insurance companies are, after all, a basically worthless parasite on the system. Their function can be and is being served directly by the government significantly more cost effectively. Any serious health care reform effort to bring down cost would seek to completely eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the size of the health insurance companies. Their continued existence as profitable companies depends on them opposing reform.
Given that, by their nature, the health insurance companies are going to oppose reform, what is amazing is how stupidly Democrats handled them in their new health care law. Instead of weakening this long-term enemy of all Democratic health care reform efforts, they designed the law to funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to these corporates and use the government to force millions of Americans to be their customers.
If you think $86 million spent by the insurance companies against health care reform this time was a lot, it will be nothing compared to the next fight now that, thanks to Obama, they have hundreds of billions in government subsidies and their government mandated costumer base. Their continued profitability is now more than ever dependent on them gaming Washington to prevent real reform.
For those who try to claim this new health care law was some great progressive step forward, remember it made the biggest opponents of real reform richer, larger, and more powerful. Not my definition of smart progress.