Some Health Groups Increase Lobbying Spending, But Only A Slight Rise Overall
"Drug makers, advocacy groups, biotechnology firms and insurance companies have ratcheted up efforts to offer their two cents - and in most cases much, much more - in influencing the health care legislation now working its way through Congress," The New York Times reports. "Many familiar health groups in recent months have increased lobbying spending by more than $1 million, according to second-quarter lobbying records filed on Monday with the Senate Office of Public Records." Those groups include AARP and The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Drug makers GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis, along with insurance company Allstate and biotechnology firm Amgen have also invested significantly more in lobbying activities."
"But as the debate in Washington intensifies, lobbying tabs at some other major organizations have shrunk. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, the drug industry's trade group, spent $6.2 million, down from $6.9 million in the first quarter. Pfizer, one of the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, also cut spending from $6.1 million to $5.6 million. Still, the two groups spent the most of all health care organizations last quarter. The American Medical Association, which endorsed the House overhaul bill last week, spent $4 million, a full million less than they spent in the fourth quarter of 2008." But "the sweeping nature of the legislation under consideration has also drawn in groups that ordinarily have little stake in health care issues. The American Beverage Association, which has been fighting proposals to tax sodas to pay for health care, spent $1.2 million on lobbying in the second quarter, almost nine times its $140,000 in the first quarter" (Lorber, 7/21).
The Wall Street Journal reports that "major health-care companies and lobbying organizations reported only a marginal increase in lobbying activity in the past three months, despite a drive by Democrats to overhaul the industry. A Wall Street Journal review of new lobbying reports released Monday shows that the 25 health-care companies and trade associations that spent the most to influence Washington in 2008 increased their lobbying expenditures by 3% to $53.6 million in the three-month period ending June 30, compared with $52.2 million during the same period in 2008. That compares with a 21% increase in lobbying spending by the energy sector, according to a Journal review of the 25 biggest energy lobbies." America's Health Insurance Plans spent about the same amount on lobbying as a year ago. And "the American Hospital Association, the industry's third-largest lobby, spent 14% less to influence Washington in April, May and June than it spent in the same period in 2008, according to the disclosure statements," (Mullins, Farnam and Radnofsky, 7/21).
Meanwhile, "the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week stepped up its advertising and lobbying efforts to combat a government-run public health plan option favored by most Democrats crafting health care reform," Roll Call reports. The big-business group announced Tuesday that it was launching a print and online advertising campaign - worth more than $2 million - in five states and that it was stepping up its grass-roots and political organizing to beat back attempts to include the public plan option in health care reform. The five states are Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine and North Carolina. The chamber's top lobbyist, Bruce Josten, said those states were selected to help provide cover to Members of Congress who have raised questions with the public plan." Bruce Josten, the Chamber's top lobbyists, says the ad's message is "don't drag down health care reform. This is ad No. 1. More to come." The Chamber says it supports health reform but "believes a public plan will have an unfair advantage and could then crowd out private plans." And "health care lobbyists say the chamber, more than any one individual industry group, is being looked at to take the lead in voicing concerns over reform proposals" (Ackley, 7/22).