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Chamber of Commerce again does insurance industry’s bidding – will work to help them evade health reform laws

Throughout the health reform debate, the Chamber of Commerce, far from being an independent institution representing its members, instead acted as a front group for the health insurance companies, funneling at least $10 to $20 million through its doors directly from the insurance industry for misleading attack ads in a futile attempt to kill health reform.

Now that health reform has become law, the Chamber is continuing to play the role of insurance company lap dog.

In keeping close to its corporate masters, the Chamber first threw a wrench in the tea party-fueled repeal movement, declaring it won’t work for a repeal of the new law. (This issue has split the Republican party wide open, with many prominent Republicans arguing for repeal and many others arguing against it.) It then jumped on board with the insurance industry’s game plan: Attempt to duck new responsibilities, which it has so far tried and failed to do surrounding the issue of covering children with pre-existing conditions.

The Chamber signaled its cooperation in a letter dated March 29th from Chamber President Thomas Donohue to the Chamber Board of Directors.

In the letter, Donohue lays out the insurance industry’s strategy: Work against implementation of health reform by creating as many holes in regulations as possible:

…we will assign a team of our most skilled and experienced staff to participate in the years-long process of writing the thousands of pages of federal regulations that will implement the many provisions in this legislation.

We will be submitting comments, proposing language, and seeking changes in an effort to minimize the potentially harmful impacts of this bill on our members and the country. Should federal regulators attempt to exceed legislative mandates or try for end-runs around the lawful rulemaking process, Chamber lawyers will take legal action.

But they’re not stopping at simply trying to evade laws. The Chamber will also spend $50 million to try and defeat Democrats who voted for health reform in 2010 – mostly on the same type of misleading ads they’ve been running up until now. This money, like their previous money, likely comes directly from the insurance companies, who are too timid to level their political attacks under their own name.

As I noted yesterday, the spat with insurance companies over covering care for children with pre-existing conditions is just the first test of how the insurance industry will respond to both the letter and spirit of the new law. Through the Chamber, they will endeavor to weasel out of anything and everything they can.

It’s up to the Department of Health and Human Services, the President, and Congress to make sure they follow the new law of the land, or to enact new legislation and rules to force them to comply (or introduce, say, a public option to provide a public interest alternative). The health of the American people depends on it.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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Jason Rosenbaum

Jason Rosenbaum

Writer, musician, activist. Currently consulting for Bill Halter for U.S. Senate and a fellow at the New Organizing Institute.