Center for Media and Democracy
January 12, 2010
We are sending you this special alert about breaking news showing that health insurance companies secretly gave the Chamber of Commerce millions of dollars to run third-party attack ads at the same time they were telling Congress they continued to "strongly support reform." On the one hand, we're not surprised, but on the other hand we're outraged by the lies and deception that's been documented.
Tonight's story in the National Journal proves what I have been talking about since I switched from being a spokesman for the health insurance industry to being a vocal critic of it. The industry is laundering millions of dollars through third parties to influence the health care reform legislation and kill provisions that might hinder insurers' profits.
The revelations are so significant that Congress should launch an immediate investigation and hold public hearings before the House and Senate schedule final votes on health care reform. Please sign our petition demanding an investigation now.
This breaking story shows that just as dealings with the Obama administration and congressional Democrats soured last summer, six of the nation's biggest health insurers began quietly pumping big money into third-party television ads aimed at killing or significantly modifying the major health reform bills moving through Congress. That money, between $10 million and $20 million, came from Aetna, CIGNA, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint, according to two health care lobbyists familiar with the transactions. The companies are all members of the powerful trade group "America's Health Insurance Plans."
Over the past several months--including during my Congressional testimony in both the House and Senate--I have talked about how health insurance companies and America's Health Insurance Plans, cannot be trusted, how they never intended to be the good-faith "partners" with President Obama and congressional leaders to enact reform despite their public assurances that they would be. I have disclosed how the industry has long conducted duplicitous public relations campaigns--one it wants the public to know about, the other that it goes to great lengths to hide from public view.
And, I have explained how the insurers work with its big business and political allies to disseminate lies and misleading information. One of the industry's biggest shills has long been the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It has funneled money through many other allies, including the Federation of Independent Business, which assisted the industry in killing the "Patient's Bill of Rights" reform legislation in the 1990s. Congress owes it to the American public to investigate the insurance industry's involvement in this deception, to determine if laws have been broken and to consider legislation to close loopholes that allow powerful special interests to engage in this kind of activity.
So, tonight, I am writing to make two urgent requests. First, I am asking you to please sign our petition to Congress demanding an immediate investigation of how much the insurance companies have spent trying to undermine reform and mislead the American people in the process. Simply sign up here to lend your voice.
Second, I am writing to ask you to please donate to the Center for Media and Democracy. In the past six months, we've been at the front lines of this fight and our funding to continue this work has literally run out.
Please donate now, as much as you can spare, to help us continue to take on the insurance companies in the coming months. We have a crucial role to play in spotlighting key issues in any investigation and in the national reform fight as well as in the next phase of this battle, in the states, once a bill passes. I will be discussing this issue on Wednesday night when I return as a guest on Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Only with your generous support will the Center's work be able to survive and thrive.
Despite our small size compared to our opponents, together we are making a big difference in this debate and on other key issues. Just this week, CMD's new leader, Lisa Graves, launched a drive to fight the Washington Post's decision to outsource reporting to a group funded by an anti-Social Security billionaire. Her immediate effort to get citizens to sign on to a demand that the Post end its partnership with this supposedly "independent" media group--whose formal advisors include CIGNA's lobbyist--helped ignite other petition drives. You can help tell the Post "no more fake news" by clicking here. Just imagine if the National Journal had outsourced its health reform reporting to such a group; there'd be no investigative report like the one on this insurance industry scandal that broke tonight.
Just as we cannot let the health insurance companies pretend they are "for reform" while secretly buying millions of dollars worth of attack ads against reform, we also cannot stand silent when newspapers outsource the writing of the "news" to groups advised by health insurance companies. And, CMD is the only public interest group whose core mission is to stand up to both these kinds of efforts. That's one of the reasons why I have been proud to be part of CMD, and that's one of the reasons I implore you to please donate to CMD today. If you have recently given, I do want to thank you for your help. And, if you plan to make a contribution this year to support our work in these battles, I hope you'll strongly consider doing so today.
Tonight's breaking news was just too important to not reach out to you right away to ask you to join our call for a full investigation. Thank you for all you have done and are doing to support our work!
Wendell Potter, Senior Health Fellow, Center for Media and Democracy
P.S. It won't take more than a minute or two of your time to do three things that will make a real difference: 1) join our demand for an immediate investigation of the secretly funded attack ads; 2) make a donation to support our work on these issues; and 3) tell the Post "no more fake news."