How Private Health Insurers Purchased Healthcare Reform

In a moment of frank political revelation, Firedoglake reports that Senator Max Bacchus has confirmed that former WellPoint Vice President Liz Fowler wrote substantial portions of the recently approved Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Left-wing opponents of the bill had already claimed that private insurers exercised significant influence on the proceedings in the House and Senate. Bacchus’ revelation takes these claims to a new level as they prove that the private health insurance lobby literally wrote the bill that is being passed off as a “reform” of the healthcare system.

Bacchus cited the contributions made by Liz Fowler during floor proceedings in the Senate. “Liz Fowler worked for me many years ago,” he proudly stated from the microphone, “left for the private sector, and then came back when she realized she could be there at the creation of health care reform because she wanted that to be, in a certain sense, her profession lifetime goal.” Fowler went on to author the influential White Paper that formed the basis for the eventual legislation.

WellPoint is a notorious private insurer. In 2007, it was revealed that the company operated an extensive department entirely dedicated to carrying out procedure denials and insurance cancellations. In 2009, WellPoint’s affiliate, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, sued the state of Maine in an attempt to force the state to guarantee that the company would receive at least a 3% annual return from selling insurance policies in the state. Not surprisingly, the company has also been a campaign contributor to Bacchus’ senatorial runs.

Liz Fowler’s pro-corporate credentials run far deeper than WellPoint. She began her career as an attorney at Hogan & Hartson, a massive corporate law and lobbying firm. The firm is an active campaign contributor, including, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributions of $2,000 to Bacchus’ campaigns in 2002 and 2006. There are currently 60 Hogan & Hartson lobbyists working in Washington representing hundreds of corporations, including dozens of health insurers and pharmaceutical companies.

All of this explains why the Senate Finance Committee was converted into the healthcare sinkhole. Senators on the committee received an inordinately high amount of campaign contributions from the health insurance industry, $8 million from PAC’s and $6 million from individuals, in 2010 to insure its loyalty. Liberal proposals for a “public-option” went down in flames here and when single-payer activists attempted to participate in the debate on the bill, Bacchus joked that “we may need more police.” The police arrived promptly and removed anyone who dared to speak against a process clearly designed to screw them.

This is how politics works for the Democrats and Republicans. The door between private industry and public policy has swung wide open. Corporate money rules politics. Bacchus apparently feels confident that the American public has sunk to a level of stupidity so low that he can pass off Fowler’s pro-corporate role as some sort of public service. Shameful.

Fowler and Bacchus are just one manifestation of a larger corrupt political process that has slipped so far out of the hands of everyday Americans that there is no going back. A slogan developed during the most recent financial crisis in Argentina might best capture what needs to happen going forward “they all must go.”

Billy Wharton is a writer, activist and co-chair of the Socialist Party USA. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Billy, or visit Billy's website.