Health Care Lobbyists Spend Big To Win Big, Consumer Groups Fight Industry Deals
Health care lobbyists are on track to set new spending records this year, with some individual companies nearly doubling their investment compared to previous periods, USA Today reports. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spent almost as much by September as it did in the entire year in 2008. America's Health Insurance Plans has spent $1 million more so far this year than over the same period last year (Schouten, 10/21).
The drug industry leads the spending, TIME reports. "(I)n the first six months of this year alone, drug and biotech companies and their trade associations spent more than $110 million - that's about $609,000 a day - to influence lawmakers" And, "[t]he return on that investment has been considerable." A House amendment extended the number of years biologics companies can avoid competition by generic drug makers from five to 12, "as would legislation passed ... by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Then-chairman Ted Kennedy, whose state of Massachusetts is home to many biotech firms, had long supported a 12-year exclusivity period. The industry showed its gratitude last year when Amgen, one of the biggest biotech firms, donated $5 million - twice the size of the next largest donation - to a nonprofit educational institute being built in Kennedy's honor" (Tumulty and Scherer, 10/22).
Lobbyists say they expect the flurry of activity to continue, especially if the reform bill passes, The Hill reports. "If healthcare reform passes, lobbyists for healthcare industries will be plenty busy trying to influence the implementation of the bill, both in Congress and in the Obama administration." In addition, "(s)ectors targeted for cuts in the bill will immediately begin trying to claw back the money they stand to lose" (Young, 10/22).
Meanwhile, NPR reports that "patient advocates and other groups are trying to take apart some of the deals already cut with top health care industry groups." Earlier this year, the White House and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., cut deals with key industry segments to limit losses to those groups in exchange for political support.
"But now patient advocates and others say lawmakers have given away too much to the health care special interests." For instance, one group, the National Coalition on Health Care, has declined to endorse any of the bills because of lingering skepticism about whether the bills will achieve their cost-containment goals. Reaching those goals could depend on industries living up to pledges like the drugmakers' promise to cut $80 billion in ten years. "Voluntary efforts don't work," the group's CEO said. "There's got to be some enforceability" (Rovner, 10/22).