The US Chamber’s Grift on American Businesses

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By Wendell Potter

Today, Thomas Donohue, who is the President and CEO of the US Chamber of Commerce, vowed to use all of the Chamber’s considerable resources to combat a single payer healthcare system.

That’s some pretty stark evidence that the US Chamber of Commerce has, for a long time, been grifting American businesses to benefit some of their most generous donors: health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Our healthcare system, which is heavily reliant on employers to provide insurance, is a disaster for American businesses.

In 2018, a single employer-sponsored family plan cost an average of $19,616. Based on a 40 hour work week, that’s an average of $9.43 per hour per employee. That’s a 5% increase from 2017, doubling the 2.5% inflation rate. The cost of these plans has gone up 20% in the past 5 years.

As these costs go up, American business have been less able to invest money in raising wages, expanding production, creating jobs, or investing in new technologies.

To make matters worse, they’re competing with foreign companies that are based in countries with much more efficient, largely taxpayer funded, healthcare systems, and don’t have these massive costs on their balance sheets.

The US Chamber of Commerce purports to represent the interest of American business. But I can tell you first hand from my time working in the healthcare industry, they’re nothing more than lobbyists for the highest industry bidder.

In 2009, many were shocked to see that the Chamber had spent $150 million on lobbying, but the number made more sense when you saw that America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the advocacy and PR group for private insurance companies, had funneled $86.2 million to the Chamber to help kill the public option. To add insult to injury, AHIP collected that money from its member groups, which means that enrollees at companies like Aetna, Cigna, Humana, and United HealthGroup inadvertently paid for the lobbying effort.

A Medicare for All system would be a boon to American businesses. It would mean that employers were no longer responsible for providing health insurance to their employees and dependents, and would likely replace constantly rising, and uncontrollable premiums with a much more manageable, and predictable, payroll tax.

It would replace our fundamentally broken system, where there are no incentives to manage costs, with a streamlined, much more affordable, and truly universal healthcare system.

But insurance companies and pharmaceutical groups know that making politicians and voters believe that Medicare for All is somehow “bad for business” can be a powerful tool to stop the growing support in its tracks. That’s why they partner with groups like the US Chamber of Commerce, who will happily take their money and spread their lies.

Wendell Potter is a former health insurance executive and best-selling author. He is the president of Business Initiative for Health Policy.