Health insurers spent big money on lobbying in early 2017
Health insurers spent millions on Capitol Hill in early 2017 as Republican lawmakers fought to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.The five largest publicly traded insurers spent a combined $6.2 million in the first three months of this year, according to government lobbying disclosures. Insurers lobbied over regulations and programs to stabilize the individual health insurance market and keep it afloat as Republicans worked to dismantle the ACA. They encouraged lawmakers to preserve the ACA's individual mandate and cost-sharing subsides if they repealed the healthcare law. Experts predict that fewer people will enroll in coverage and the individual market would collapse if those protections are eliminated. Nearly all the insurers lobbied to repeal the loathed annual tax on health insurance companies. That tax, which is used to fund the ACA subsidies for low-income enrollees, was delayed in 2017 in hopes that insurers would keep premiums down and push savings to consumers. The tax is set to be reinstated in 2018. Insurers also spent big money over the 2018 Medicare Advantage rates finalized earlier this month. Of the largest U.S. insurers, UnitedHealth Group spent $1.65 million in the first quarter. Anthem spent $1.64 million on issues including its troubled merger with reluctant partner Cigna Corp., which spent $1.2 million. The $54 billion merger was blocked by a federal judge in February for threatening to harm competition in the national employer market. The merger is in limbo after Anthem appealed the decision. Disclosures also show that Aetna and Humana lobbied to close their own $37 billion merger, which ultimately failed after another federal judge blocked it, saying it would harm competition in Medicare Advantage. The two insurers called off their proposed marriage in February. Aetna spent $1.4 million on lobbying and Humana spent just $360,000. But they were all outspent by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which doled out $2.2 million in the quarter. Industry lobbying group America's Health Insurance Plans spent $1.7 million. AHIP, which represents some of the largest health insurers, has been outspoken about the need to keep cost-sharing subsidies and enforce the mandate that requires most people to buy coverage to prevent a market collapse.
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