Laundering The Message

How big insurance bought and paid for the “small business” attack on Obamacare


Last week, the National Journal reported that in 2011, the health insurance industry lobby group AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) quietly funneled $850,000 to the NFIB – the self-proclaimed “Voice of Small Business” – as part of a campaign to repeal a key provision of Obamacare.  

The provision, a fee on health insurers, goes into effect next year and is estimated to cost the insurance industry $100 billion over the next 10 years.  It helps to finance Obamacare’s sliding scale premium assistance to help individuals and small businesses afford coverage.

The National Journal’s Chris Frates wrote:

“The back-channel spending shows how insurers were able to fund a key—and much more politically popular—ally in their fight against the premium tax. After all, helping small businesses is a political no-brainer while aiding big insurers is a political nonstarter.”

Money and message laundering is not new terrain for AHIP and NFIB in the battle over health care reform.  Bloomberg Businessweek reports that the NFIB took $3.7 million from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS while leading the Supreme Court challenge to Obamacare, while insurers funneled over $100 million to fund attacks on the health reform law by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

But while the insurance industry secretly funnels money to fuel “small business” attacks on health care reform, Obamacare is already working to help small businesses afford health insurance coverage.

Many small business owners are already taking advantage of the law’s health care tax credits, which next year increase to up to 50 percent of a small employer’s health care costs.  New marketplaces are being developed to provide small business owners apples-to-apples comparisons of quality coverage options in 2014.  Obamacare’s 80/20 rule has forced insurance companies that fail to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on health care to provide more than $1 billion in rebates to individuals and small businesses.

As the New York Times reports, it’s no wonder that small business owners are forming new political alignments, joining with organizations like the Main Street Alliance to speak for themselves on the most pressing issues facing their businesses, their communities, and the economy.