Health insurers are stepping up their lobbying efforts in light of the nation’s health care system debate. INN reported yesterday that a letter from President Obama provides some solid clues about the direction of the debate over health care reform. The letter, addressed to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D. – Mont.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee Chairman Edward Kennedy (D. - Mass.), contained support for a public health care option operating alongside private insurance plans.

“I strongly believe that Americans should have the choice of a public health insurance option operating alongside private plans,” Obama wrote. “This will give them a better range of choices, make the health care market more competitive, and keep insurance companies honest.”

Five large private insurers and the trade group America's Health Insurance Plans spent a total of $6.4 million in the first quarter on lobbying efforts, The Associated Press reports.

The news outlet got their hands on numerous disclosure reports and reported that:

UnitedHealth Group Inc. spent $1.5 million
WellPoint Inc. spent $1.2 million
Aetna Inc. spent $809,793
Cigna Corp. spent $450,000
Humana Inc. spent $370,000

Though not one of the five mentioned in the $6.4 million, MetLife Inc. spent nearly $1.2 million lobbying in the first quarter on legislation related to health insurance, overhauling the health care system, home mortgages, financial regulations and other issues, a recent disclosure report shows.

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