President Obama’s health reform law forced health insurance companies to largely stop canceling medical coverage to patients after being diagnosed with a disease. Rescissions, as they are known, allowed insurers to cancel individual market policies by finding spelling errors or minor mistakes in coverage applications as an excuse to halt treatment for patients.

An investigation found five health insurance companies operating in California had rescinded care for sick patients in over 20,000 instances. A congressional hearing following the study revealed cases in which people died after having vital health coverage rescinded. One of the health care companies that engaged in this practice, including in California, is UnitedHealth’s Golden Rule Insurance company.

Recently leaked document show that Golden Rule actually funneled large donations to a nonprofit “think tank” that fought aggressively to defend the right of insurance companies to engage in rescissions. The leaked documents, all relating to the fundraising operation of the Heartland Institute, have largely been covered by the media only through the lens of the group’s dedication to anti-climate science propaganda. But given the Heartland Institute’s lobbying against certain aspects of health reform, the Golden Rule donations are just as important.

Golden Rule gave $40,030 to the Heartland Institute in 2010, followed by a $250,000 donation last year and another $250,000 pledged for this year, according to the documents. The money is earmarked for the Heartland Institute’s health care policy program.

During this time period, the Heartland Institute published several documents railing against “Obamacare,” citing the new regulations against rescissions as part of the problem. The Heartland Institute’s Peter Ferrara sides with insurers in a major report and says the practice of rescinding care is “only fair,” given how patients lie on applications. In addition to promoting ludicrous conspiracy theories like the “death panel” charge, the Heartland Institute also published a newsletter with a pieces that derided the crackdown on rescissions. One newsletter downplayed worry about rescissions as “scare stories,” while noting that such incidents “rarely occur.”

The insurers fought hard against the health reform regulation curbing rescissions. The same California investigation found that rescinding care saved the companies $300 million over a five year period. But lobbying isn’t always as simple as hiring a K Street firm. Often, corporations will defend heinous business practices from oversight by paying a third party or nonprofit to make their case for them.

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Filed under: Lobbying

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