Insurance giants fund Republicans in hopes of amending health reform law

The five largest insurers and AHIP are funding Republican candidates in the mid-term elections, hoping to amend several requirements under the health reform law--a marked change from 2009, when the industry largely split its political donations between the parties.

Aetna (NYSE: AET), Humana (NYSE: HUM), Cigna (NYSE: CI), WellPoint (NYSE: WLP), and UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH) have given three times more money to Republican lawmakers and political action committees than to Democratic politicians and organizations. WellPoint has given nearly nine times as much to Republicans this year, according to the Los Angeles Times. In June, the insurance industry donated $543,840 to Republicans and $353,870 to Democrats, Politico reports.

This shift in political giving to Republicans began after health plans failed to achieve a stiffer penalty for consumers who violated the mandate to obtain health insurance, which industry analysts believed was critical to offsetting the costs of insuring sicker patients. "If these industries were pleased with how health reform turned out, these numbers would look a heck of a lot different," Dave Levinthal of Center for Responsive Politics, which conducted an analysis of political donations, told Politico.

Insurers increasingly are balking at the myriad new directives in the healthcare law that prohibit denial of coverage to sick children, canceling policies when customers become ill, and placing lifetime caps on how much they will pay when their customers get sick. Health plans also are fighting efforts by the Obama administration to expand federal oversight of premiums, reports the LA Times.

Not coincidentally, Republicans have campaigned aggressively on the promise of "repealing and replacing" healthcare reform, including chipping away at the law by defunding the programs it establishes, CBS reports. AHIP's President Karen Ignagni said these requirements would exacerbate skyrocketing healthcare costs. "What we have to do now is focus on how we get to this issue of affordability," she told the LA Times.

To learn more:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- check out the Politico story
- view the CBS News article