WellPoint, other big-name insurers donate millions for politics, lobbying

Top U.S. corporations gave $185 million in one year to about 1,000 politically active nonprofits, and WellPoint ranked as the second biggest donor, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity. The Indianapolis-based insurer disclosed 19.2 million in donations to trade groups and politically engaged nonprofits in 2012.

Moreover, the Center for Public Integrity found that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) was the biggest beneficiary. The Chicago-based BCBSA received $16 million, all of which came from WellPoint. Of WellPoint's $16 million contribution, BCBSA put 2.2 million towards lobbying or politics.

Using the Fortune 500 list of the U.S. companies with the largest revenue in 2012, the Center for Public Integrity looked at the voluntary corporate disclosures covering political and lobbying expenditures for the top 300 firms and found five big-name health insurers made the list of benefactors. Aetna disclosed it gave $6.5 million, followed by Cigna, which donated $1.5 million.

HealthNet and Humana each gave $1.4 million and WellCare Health Plans disclosed giving $55,639, according to the report.

The Center for Public Integrity also noted that roughly 84 percent of the $185 million in disclosed funds went to trade associations, with America's Health Insurance Plans receiving $7.3 million.

Insurer donations came under question last summer when Republican lawmakers questioned whether the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services was soliciting donations from insurers to help HHS promote the reform law and the health insurance exchanges, in particular.

An HHS spokesperson disclosed that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been in touch with healthcare companies, private foundations and businesses in other industries, requesting donations to Enroll America, but added that Sebelius' fundraising efforts were legal and didn't included any direct communications with companies HHS oversees, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the Center for Public Integrity report
- here's the Fortune 500 list

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