U.S. Chamber joins chorus in using claims about health care to criticize Conway

09/15/2010 01:53 PM

A third group began airing ads Wednesday that criticize Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jack Conway for voicing support for the health care reform bill that passed Congress in March.

The commercial began airing Wednesday, the same day the Chamber announced its endorsement of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul.

“At no other time in our nation’s history has it been more critical that Members of Congress provide leadership that protects and advances the interests of the business community,” said Thomas Donohue, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber, in a statement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spot seeks to link Conway to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the issue (as opposed to the Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and National Republican Senatorial Committee spots that connect Conway to President Barack Obama over the health care ad). Paul’s own ad has been focused on the issue of health care and his opposition to what he calls “ObamaCare.”

The Chamber’s commercial highlights a slew of numbers related to the bill and at slams Conway for saying he agreed with its passage. And it uses those numbers to make claims about potential effects of the health care reform law. The Chamber purchased time statewide from Wednesday through Sept. 28, according to public ad purchase records filed with Insight Communications.

Here’s the spot:

Among the points:

  • $1 trillion “budget buster.” It cites the Heritage Foundation, a conservative and free-market think tank in Washington whose experts have been critical of the health care reform bill.
  • $525 billion in “job killing taxes.” Again, the ad’s source is the Heritage Foundation. One of the think tank’s analysis pieces on the health care measure from April, says employers would be slapped with new taxes, particularly if they fail to provide insurance for their employees.
  • $2,100 increases in premiums. The citation is a November 30, 2009 report from the Congressional Budget Office in response to a request by Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh. The relevant portion comes on page 6 of the report, in which it outlines that average premiums would be lower under the new provision for individuals by 2016 than under the former system. But the average premiums for families would be $2,100 higher by 2016 under the new law than under the old system. But the CBO says the average amount of premiums would be hired because people who aren’t able to get insurance now would be covered under the new law. Here’s that section:

Average premiums per policy in the nongroup market in 2016 would be roughly $5,800 for single policies and $15,200 for family policies under the proposal, compared with roughly $5,500 for single policies and $13,100 for family policies under current law.4 The weighted average of the differences in those amounts equals the change of 10 percent to 13 percent in the average premium per person summarized above, but the percentage increase in the average premium per policy for family policies is larger and that for single policies is smaller because the average number of people covered per family policy is estimated to increase under the proposal. The effects on the premiums paid by some individuals and families could vary significantly from the average effects on premiums.

  • $500 billion cuts to Medicare. Like the National Republican Senatorial Committee ad that started Tuesday, the Chamber’s ad references a Washington Post article from March 19 when the compromise version of the health care bill was unveiled. The $500 billion in cuts over the next years mostly would come out of the Medicare Advantage program, which allows seniors to buy Medicare through private insurance companies such as Louisville-based Humana. President Barack Obama has criticized the program as “wasteful” because he said it has become a subsidy for well-off insurance giants. The White House has defended the move and has cited a Bloomberg report that said insurance executives don’t expect the cuts to affect seniors’ coverage through them. But many seniors enrolled through the program say they’re worried the changes could affect how they receive coverage at a lower cost, according to an insurance industry report.
  • Nevertheless, the ad makes the claim that 113,00 Kentucky seniors whose Medicare benefits would be cut, which is based on Henry J. Kaiser Foundation figures about the number of Kentuckians enrolled in the Medicare Advantage numbers.

The Chamber has become increasingly involved in political campaigns. In 2008, it ran ads in support of Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell during his re-election . Earlier this month, the Chamber launched its fall ad campaign targeting Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in California. But it has supported some Democrats during this election cycle, such as Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln, during the spring primary.

But a group called U.S. Chamber Watch, which is backed by labor unions, formed earlier this summer. Last week, it filed a lawsuit alleging that the Chamber has committed tax fraud by using funds tagged as charitable donations for its political activities, the New York Times reported.

- Ryan Alessi


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