Health care

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From the beginning of the debate around passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act or ACA), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has worked to undermine efforts to expand access to healthcare and to reduce industry profiteering. From spending $86 million to oppose the ACA in 2009 to undermining the funding sources of the law in 2014, the Chamber has consistently sided with Big Pharma against health care affordability for the average American.

Through the Chamber, Big Insurance and Big Pharma game the system

In 2010, tax forms and anonymous sources revealed that health insurance companies had given the Chamber $86.2 million in 2009 to spend on opposing health care reform, even as many of the same companies expressed support for the reform in public.

In 2010, the Chamber launched an ad saying, “Washington wants $600 billion in new borrowing for their health care bill,” despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office projected the bill would reduce the deficit by $138 billion over 10 years.

Years after the passage of the ACA, the Chamber continues to use it in misleading ways as a reason to attack candidates for office. Politifact rated as “mostly false” a Chamber ad claiming that the ACA would cause 20 million people to lose their coverage and another Chamber ad “false” that called the ACA a job-killer. More recent fact-checking has reiterated that the ACA will not have a significant impact on businesses’ demand for labor. The Washington Post gave four out of four Pinocchio’s to a Chamber report that appeared in GOP talking points and made the claim that most small businesses blamed the health care law for harming their ability to hire. In an attack ad against then-U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin, the Chamber called the public option “wildly unpopular,” earning itself another “false” rating from Politifact.

And what about the Chamber’s contention that the law would “crush small businesses with billions in penalties?” Also false – the bill exempts some small businesses from penalties and gives credits to most of the others. Once again, the Chamber’s feigned concern for small businesses belies its true constituency – 15 directors on its board represent companies or institutions tied to the health care industry, 10 of which (the public ones) had an average $27.5 billion in revenue in the last recorded year, according to Public Citizen’s calculations. This includes health insurance carrier State Farm, whose CEO is the chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The board of the Institute for Legal Reform, the Chamber’s anti-civil justice affiliate, also is heavily populated by representatives of the health insurance and pharmaceuticals industries. Of eight such groups represented on its board, seven had an average previous year’s revenue of $42.8 billion, according to research, and the eighth is the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents the biggest companies in the drug industry. This would help explain why the ILR promotes policies like forced arbitration , which blocks consumers’ access to courts when they have disputes with companies, including health insurance providers.