The Chamber of Commerce brand is synonymous with small town pride and locally-owned businesses, but a new report reveals that these business organizations are really working for the corporate health insurance industry.
The report from the Campaign for New York Health and the New York Metro Chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program examines why local and regional Chambers of Commerce and other business groups in New York lobby against a single-payer bill, even though it would financially benefit their small business members.
Read the report here.
The New York report traces the financial and professional ties between the heads of state business groups and a lobbying group that organizes misinformation and lobbying campaigns against health care reform proposals.
Why are these business groups fighting policies that would help their Main Street members? The answer, as always, is the corrupting influence of big money.
The state’s largest and most profitable health insurance companies are all members and supporters of these local chambers. They sponsor Chamber events. They pay big membership fees. And they encourage these business groups to sell insurance plans to their business members – and they give them a cut from each of these sales.
When an organization receives a significant amount of its revenue from selling private insurance plans they are not going to kill the golden goose by advocating for policies that limit the profits of large health insurers.
During my career as a health insurance company executive, I saw how insurers use large and small business groups–including local Chambers, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce–to carry out their campaigns to influence public opinion and public policy. Insurers historically have not been held in high public esteem, but the business groups have. If the insurers conducted their own campaigns, they would be seen as self-serving, so they give money to business organizations to run those campaigns.
This insidious relationship between big business groups and health insurance companies is even more apparent on the national level.
The largest health insurers in the country have declared war on any and all health care reform proposals, from President Biden’s Public Option to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced in August of 2020 the launch of Protecting Americans’ Coverage Together (PACT), a multi-million dollar campaign aimed at fooling Americans into believing they like their employer-sponsored health insurance.
And when COVID-19 shut down businesses across the country earlier this year, the Chamber worried how this would impact their best clients. They teamed up with the country’s biggest health insurance companies and hospitals to call on Congress to subsidize private health insurance plans for laid-off workers instead of allowing them to auto enroll in Medicare, which would have been far more efficient and affordable.
This corporate welfare comes, of course, during a year that the insurance industry saw record profits because people were paying their premiums but unable to see a doctor or get non-emergency care during the height of COVID-19.
This is nothing new for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 10 years ago, the insurance industry’s biggest PR and lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, funneled more than $100 million to the U.S. Chamber to bankroll the Chamber’s campaign against the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The Chamber has launched similar propaganda campaigns against other proposals that threaten corporate profits, including allowing the federal government to use its purchasing power to negotiate lower health care prices.
Small businesses need help right now. When it comes to health care, they either can’t afford it or are drowning in costs to pay for it. It’s too bad their best ally in the fight is taking proverbial bribes from the insurers that are ripping them off.