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By Reity O'Brien
The Center for Public Integrity (MCT)
WASHINGTON--The health insurance industry presented itself as an ally of President Barack Obama's health care law while at the same time making hefty contributions to members of Congress who are trying to get rid of it, according to contribution records.
Between January 2007 and August 2012, the political action committees of the 11 largest health insurance companies and their primary trade group gave $10.2 million to federal politicians. Nearly two-thirds of the total went to Republicans who oppose the law or support its repeal, according to the Center for Public Integrity's analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.
The 11 top companies, according to the Fortune 500 list, controlled 35 percent of the industry in 2011, according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The top industry trade group is America's Health Insurance Plans.
Much of the money rolled in as health insurance industry leaders showed support for the Democrats' reform efforts.
"We are ready to be accountable to these [new] rules," Karen Ignagni, AHIP's president and chief executive officer told the Senate Finance Committee in May 2009, roughly a year before Obama's landmark legislation was signed into law.
Likewise, Ron Williams, then chairman and chief executive officer of Aetna, the country's fifth-largest health insurance company, also spoke favorably about the bill--at first.
"I believe that President Obama and this Congress have charted a course of change," Williams said in a June 2009 statement.
But Williams, who left Aetna in April 2011, this past June penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed calling for health care reform at the state level and criticizing the federal law's mandate.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., ranks as the top recipient of political action committee money from the top insurers since 2007, according to the center's analysis. Cantor, a tea party favorite and one of the law's most vocal critics, has received about $258,000 from AHIP and the top industry PACs.
In January 2011, Cantor introduced the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, the first of 33 repeal efforts that have reached the House floor.
That same year, Aetna, Humana, UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint--which together control 28 percent of the health insurance market--maxed out to Cantor, giving $10,000 apiece to his campaign committee. That doesn't include additional sums that went into the congressman's leadership PAC.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, now the Republican nominee for vice president, also is among the top recipients ($187,000). Just this year, Ryan, who leads the House Budget Committee, has sponsored two major budget plans that have called for the law's repeal.
Other top recipients of health insurance PAC money during this period include House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio ($209,500); Republican House Whip Kevin