Thursday, October 22, 2009

AHIP’s Two-Faced Campaign Unravels: No ‘Comfort To The Enemy’ Vs. ‘Committed To Bipartisan Health Reform’


For months, ThinkProgess has documented how the private health insurance industry has waged a duplicitous, “two-faced” campaign to kill health reform. Because the industry understands that the public views it in a largely negative light, the industry presents itself as proactively working hand-in-hand with legislators to produce reform. However, behind the scenes — using attacks from front groups, allied politicians, think tanks, lobbyists, and right-wing media — the industry is coordinating a massive effort to kill all reform.

As Congress approaches a final vote on health reform, the industry is having difficulty concealing its underhanded campaign. USA Today reports that Karen Ignagni, the President of the insurance industry trade group AHIP, fired off a letter reminding Democrats that despite releasing a deeply misleading report last week slashing the Senate Finance health bill, her companies are still “committed to bipartisan health reform”:

“You don’t turn against reform simply because people have declared you’ve turned against reform. That’s not what we’re doing.

The self-conscious letter stands in stark contract with what Ignagni’s own lobbyists said today at an AHIP conference. According to the Huffington Post, Steve Champlin, a lobbyist for a firm representing AHIP, declared bipartisan health reform dead and urged GOP lawmakers to refuse to help pass a bill:

“There is absolutely no interest, no reason Republicans should ever vote for this thing. They have gone from a party that got killed 11 months ago to a party that is rising today. And they are rising up on the turmoil of health care [...] So when they vote for a health care reform bill, whatever it is, they are giving comfort to the enemy who is down.”

Private insurers have already been caught using a stealth lobbying firm to send employees to rowdy town halls (and radical tea party events), sharing lobbyists with slash-and-burn anti-health reform attack groups, and paying a number of conservative pundits who regularly appear in major media outlets to slam health reform. Almost immediately after AHIP issued its “hatchet job” report against the Senate Finance bill, Republican lawmakers began parroting the report’s talking points verbatim. The candid slip by Champlin today, whose firm has been paid hundreds of thousands by AHIP, underscores a larger effort by insurers to derail reform, even bills without robust measures like the public option.

Click here for ThinkProgress’ research page on the health insurers’ campaign against reform.

Update - The Huffington Post’s Arthur Delaney reports that AHIP is now distancing itself from Champlin’s comments.

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