Reform Bill Details Emerge, Lobbyists Gear Up for Fight
Industry groups reacted "warily" this weekend to a draft of the Senate HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee's health overhaul plan. The first details emerged late Friday and lobbyists began speaking up, USA Today reports:
- National Association of Manufacturers: "We're trying hard," according to a spokesman, to remove a provision from the draft legislation that would penalize employers who don't provide insurance.
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce: "The biggest sticking points will be the so-called public option and the employer mandate," a spokesman said (Fritze, 6/8).
- America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP): "There's both a social and economic reason to get everybody in the healthcare system," a spokesman said. The group opposes the public option, but sees individual mandates to buy insurance as "a huge booster," the LA Times reports (Girion, 6/7).
- American Medical Association: "If you're concentrating on the end goals of getting affordable health insurance for everyone, it can probably be achieved by market reforms," AMA President Nancy Nielsen said, Bloomberg reports, in a pre-emptive strike against the then-expected public plan before details of the proposal were released Friday (Nussbaum, 6/5).
As the urgency of these groups' interests increase, they have fewer tools at their disposal than in past years, thanks to tighter restrictions such as a "ban on gifts to lawmakers and limits on campaign contributions," USA Today reports in a separate article. However, lobbyists have no restrictions on spending money to "honor" lawmakers, such as Sen. Edward Kennedy, who leads the HELP committee.
"Health insurers and hospitals are donating millions to help build an institute in Boston to celebrate the career of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is attempting to overhaul the nation's health care system," USA Today reports (Schouten and Overberg, 6/8).
Meanwhile, Democrats seeking support for their sweeping overhaul plan are mobilizing their own lobbyists, "suburban housewives and social workers mixed with Baptists ministers, college students, retirees," Reuters reports, describing the broad membership of the Democratic National Committee's 'Organizing for America' political operation, led by President Obama's former campaign manager.
Obama's political machine is gearing up for a "vicious fight," one activist told Reuters. "The insurance companies and healthcare companies are gearing up to oppose this. We've got to get our voices heard," he said (Gillam, 6/8).