Lobbyists Ramp Up Efforts To Shape Health Care Reform
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch/New York Times reports: "Top lobbyists for every major sector of the health care industry publicly insist they are squarely behind the health care reform effort of President Barack Obama's administration. But as the debate gets down to the details, the lines dividing friend from foe are getting blurry. Each industry group is also working quietly to scuttle or reshape some element of the administration's proposals that might hurt profits - usually some measure aimed at cost control" (Kirkpatrick, 9/14).
The Chicago Tribune reports on the American Medical Association's shift from being a long-time foe to a supporter of health care reform: "This time, the voice of America's doctors is on the other side -- working not to defeat President Barack Obama's proposals but to get them enacted into law. And among the many reasons for the AMA's historic shift is one practical consideration: Obama's plan promises to provide millions of government dollars to help millions of patients pay their doctor bills. Moreover, in a deal cut with Obama's congressional allies that has made it into one of the principal health care bills pending on Capitol Hill, the government will rescind scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to doctors amounting to $228 billion over the next 10 years."
"The AMA's new position on the government's role in health care reflects changes in both the organization and the economics of American medicine. With AMA membership in decline, what was once considered the capital's most powerful single lobby was beginning to slip" (Geiger and Hamburger, 9/13).
Roll Call reports on efforts by healthcare lobbyists: "As Senate Finance Committee negotiators put the last touches on their long-awaited bill, health care stakeholders are intensifying their lobbying push in a last-ditch effort to influence the panel's result. Associations and companies huddled with their outside consultants last week after President Barack Obama's joint address to Congress, trying to game out their next steps. Health care groups are lobbying aggressively on specific parts of the package, rather than a full-out assault to kill the legislation" (Palmer and Ackley, 9/14).
Politico reports: "The medical-device industry is organizing companies that make everything from CT scans to contact lenses to fight a proposed $4 billion annual fee on device makers, arguing that companies across the board could get hit with the fees. And the industry is trying to rally companies that make even mundane items like condoms and Q-tips to fight the fee, as well. The emerging Senate Finance Committee plan, in particular, has touched off an increase in activity, because all sides view it as the most likely vehicle for compromise - perhaps the closest thing to what the final health care overhaul might look like. Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) raised alarms among industry insiders by asking companies to put up billions of dollars in annual fees to pay for his $900 billion plan. Along with device makers, clinical labs would pay $750 million and insurers are looking at a 35 percent tax on high-cost plans and an additional $6 billion in fees" (Frates and Budoff Brown, 9/14).
Meanwhile, several news outlets report on the influential role of unions in health care reform debate. The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP reports: "John Sweeney, stepping down after 14 years at the helm of the AFL-CIO, urged union leaders yesterday to keep up the fight to overhaul health care and revamp labor laws so workers can form unions more easily" (Hananel, 9/14).
Bloomberg also reports on statements by Sweeney that "opponents of overhauling the health insurance system are exploiting fear and racism to try to prevent it from being approved in Congress" (Rosenkrantz, 9/13).
Roll Call reports on labor unions' reaction to Obama's proposal to charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies: "But, to many unions, whose members have taken wage cuts in favor of improved health care coverage in recent years, Obama's proposal could be a deal-breaker for an important Democratic political bloc" (Murray, Palmer and Ackley, 9/14).