Insurance giants may form group to influence elections

Disappointed with the outcome of health reform--and increasingly unhappy with their industry group, America's Health Insurance Plans--five of the largest health payers in the nation are "in serious discussions" about forming their own lobbying organization, reports the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit group dedicated to investigative journalism.

Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp., Humana Inc., United HealthCare Inc. and WellPoint Inc., may pony up a combined $20 million to form an organization aimed at influencing congressional races and boosting their industry's image, and is using the pharmaceutical and financial industries as their strategy role models, the Center for Public Integrity reports.

The effort is fueled by growing disappointment in AHIP's leadership and clout. The blog Politico Pulse quoted unidentified insurance industry sources expressing disappointment with the industry's lack of muscle and influence during the health reform debates of 2009 and early 2010.

"We need effective leadership going forward to implement the law," a source told the blog.

AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach, meanwhile, said his group will "continue to focus on implementing the new law and working to hold down cost increases for the 200 million people our members serve."   

The five insurance giants are expected to decide within a few weeks whether to jointly form a lobbying organization, the Center for Public Integrity reports.

Interestingly, it wouldn't be the first time these companies have joined forces. They've teamed up with Kaiser Foundation Health Plans to spend millions on ads that were critical of healthcare reform, FierceHealthcare reported earlier this year.

For more:
-  Read this report by the Center for Public Integrity
-  Read the latest from Politico Pulse

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