Industry Lobby Wars Heighten As Reform Efforts Progress
"Healthcare companies are spending millions of dollars and marshaling armies of lobbyists to influence a landmark debate in the U.S. Congress that could dramatically change the way they do business," Reuters reports. "Drugmakers, doctors, insurers and hospitals have opened their wallets, spending more than $1 million a day to buy a voice in the escalating political battle over what could be the broadest revamp of healthcare laws in decades." And "as the debate has unfolded, key lawmakers have seen a surge in campaign donations, and hundreds of lobbyists have jammed Capitol hallways and lined the reception room outside the Senate chamber to talk to lawmakers." Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, says "there is a frenzy going on to get in your two cents worth before the legislation reaches the next stage."
In addition to rallying health care groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Medical Association and health insurers, "the proposals in Congress are far-reaching enough that a diverse array of industry groups unrelated to healthcare have also lobbied on the issue, from soft drink manufacturers worried about new taxes on sugary drinks to Realtors and funeral home directors worried about the impact on small businesses, the Center for Responsive Politics said. The industry is also a big campaign contributor to members of Congress. Five of the top 10 contributors to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a key player in healthcare negotiations, have in recent years been drug or insurance companies, according to reports compiled by the center" (Whitesides, 7/30).
Politico reports that "while the big fight in health care reform focuses on whether to create a government insurance program, scores of skirmishes are being waged by industry interest groups over the massive legislation's smaller provisions. One case in point: a David and Goliath showdown between a small group of medical supply companies and big hospitals. The medical supply companies are pitching a plan they say will inject new competition into the hospital equipment purchases market and save consumers $100 billion annually. Their cause is led by one paid spokeswoman, an industry whistleblower and an attorney working for free. They've also recruited support from unions and progressives. Against them stands an industry that, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has spent nearly $50 million in just the first six months of this year lobbying Congress. It's also an industry that the White House and Congress desperately want on board in the reform effort" (Frates, 7/31).
Newsweek blog "The Gaggle" reports that the ad wars between health care groups is likely to reach new heights over the August recess, especially in swing districts. "Pretty much every lobby with a stake in health care-big business, insurance, pharmaceutical companies, both political parties, among others-are planning a major blitz to try to shape the outcome of the bill. ... For lack of a better word, it's going to be a total ad-pocalyse, along the likes of what we saw during the final weeks of the presidential campaign last fall" (Bailey, 7/30).