AHIP donated $86M to lobby against health reform law

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) provided the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business lobbying group, with $86.2 million to oppose the health reform law--while it pledged general support for reform.

The Chamber, which was one of the biggest detractors of President Obama's healthcare overhaul, used the funds to advance a market-based healthcare system and advocate for fundamental reform that would improve access to quality care while lowering costs. The $86.2 million paid for advertisements, polling and grass roots events to drum up opposition to the bill, according to Bloomberg.

Tax records disclosed this week revealed that AHIP's donation accounted for more than 40 percent of the contributions the Chamber received in 2009, which totaled $205.4 million. The Chamber and its combined affiliates had revenues of $261.1 million in 2009, CBS News reports.

The White House criticized the donation, saying insurers were "desperate to preserve their ability to discriminate against you if you had a preexisting condition, drop your care when you got sick and limit the amount of care you could receive in a year or a lifetime." Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who helped write the healthcare law in the House, also condemned AHIP's spending in a letter to fellow members of Congress, Bloomberg reports. "That $86 million in attack ads could have been better spent to reduce insurance premiums," he wrote.

AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach declined to comment on spending details but said the group opposed a public-insurance option because it would have hurt existing policy holders, according to the Washington Post. "With so much at stake, we, like other major stakeholders, invested in advocacy," Zirkelbach said. "We supported a number of leading healthcare advocacy organizations and coalitions that shared our views."

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article
- see the CBS News story
- read the Washington Post article

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