Insurers’ efforts really weren’t that long ago

INSURERS’ EFFORTS REALLY WEREN’T THAT LONG AGO…. During yesterday’s “debate,” such as it was, over repealing the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, there was no shortage of awful arguments. But Rep. Ed Whitfield (R) of Kentucky raised a point on the House floor that stood out.

“[H]ow can you claim that we’re supporting insurance companies by repealing this bill when the insurance companies supported the bill? And they supported the bill because it mandates that small businesses and individuals buy health insurance.”

Um, no. Democrats had quite a few allies endorsing their health care reform legislation — the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospitals Association, the American Cancer Society, the AARP, etc. — but “insurance companies” did not “support the bill.”

Ed Whitfield — who’s been in Congress for quite a while, and should probably have paid closer attention — may have been confused for the better part of 2009 and 2010, but insurance companies went after the legislation with a vengeance.

Indeed, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) said it was sincere in its promise to play a constructive role in the health care reform debate, but while it was assuring policymakers of its good-faith intentions, insurers were secretly financing blatantly dishonest attack ads, hoping to kill the entire effort, quietly funneling money to outside groups.

The record is unambiguous: “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 $86.2 million paid for advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill, said Tom Collamore, a Chamber of Commerce spokesman.”

How can reform advocates claim Republicans are supporting insurance companies by voting to repeal this bill? Because Whitfield and his colleagues are doing their bidding, prioritizing insurers’ profits above all.

He doesn’t have to like it, but to pretend the insurance companies were on Democrats’ side is evidence of either remarkable ignorance or astounding dishonesty.

Postscript: Whitfield thinks insurers should approve of the law because it creates millions of new customers. The industry doesn’t like the law anyway, but it’s not an unreasonable point. But if that’s a concern, will Whitfield endorse a public option so that private insurers don’t get millions of new customers?