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Insurers opened their wallets wider in 2009

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Despite the down economy, the nation’s largest health insurance companies upped their lobbying efforts last year. WHYY reports on the cash flowing into the health reform debate.

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The Center for Responsive Politics is analyzing new reports that detail the lobbying money spent to influence Congress and the rest of the federal government. Dave Levinthal is spokesman for the center. He says the health insurance industry spent tens of millions of dollars to block reform proposals that could hurt future profits.

Levinthal: Even though the economy has been so bad, even though some of these firms have had financial difficulties, they figure that they need to spend the money now in order to fight against something that might happen five or ten years down the road that would be in a piece of legislation that would be onerous to their corporate interest.

Levinthal’s group runs the Web site

Insurance giant Cigna, which is based in Philadelphia, increased its federal lobbying efforts by 23 percent last year, spending $1.6 million in 2009. Cigna declined to comment on this story.

The Constitution protects a corporation’s right to lobby with their dollars, but Levinthal says the average uninsured Philadelphian does not have money to pump into the political system.

Levinthal: If you see that health care company that may be denying you coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and they’re spending tens of millions of dollars in order to do what’s in their corporate interest, then at that point, you may see it as somewhat unbalanced.

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