Tags: Report | Details | Healthcare | Lobbying | Spending

Report Details Healthcare Lobbying Spending

Friday, 22 June 2007 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Massive spending by the healthcare industry is swamping the nation's political process, according to the findings of a new report issued today. It coincides with the premiere of Michael Moore's new documentary "SiCKO," a searing indictment of the U.S. healthcare system which opens nationwide June 29.

The research was compiled by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee's research arm, the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy, based on a comprehensive analysis of publicly available and custom data sets from the Center for Responsive Politics.

CNA/NNOC released the report today as Moore joined nurses and doctors from around the U.S. in a New Hampshire town hall meeting on healthcare with undecided voters. "SiCKO" describes the heartbreaking, systemic denial of care by healthcare industry giants, and links it to escalating profits and the industry's hefty clout in Congress.

"These staggering sums have a crushing impact on policy and are drowning out the voices of patients and other ordinary Americans who can't begin to match the financial clout of the big drug companies, insurers, and other healthcare industry giants," said CNA/NNOC President Deborah Burger, RN.

The avalanche of cash has a direct impact on healthcare policy in Washington and influences positions on healthcare reform taken by candidates for public office, asserts CNA/NNOC.

"That political influence produces huge financial benefits for the healthcare industry," Burger noted. They include blocking bills to protect patients from HMO, hospital, or nursing home abuses, provide greater public oversight of insurers, or permit the re-importation of cheaper prescription medications from Canada or Europe.

Additionally, most healthcare "reform" proposals directly benefit the biggest political spenders, from the insurers to the drug companies to the commercial banks and investment firms now promoting Health Savings Accounts and tax-credits to buy insurance.

In federal lobbying alone, healthcare spending exceeded $2.2 billion the past decade, during which healthcare surpassed all other industry sectors in lobbying expenditures.

Healthcare industry contributions have also become a significant factor in the 2008 presidential contest as well, according to the report.

Political action committees for drug and insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, dentists, and nursing homes are lavishing millions of dollars on both Democratic and Republican candidates, the report found. Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. John McCain together received over 40% of healthcare industry contributions among the 18 major party declared candidates.

Overall, healthcare contributions to the 18 currently announced Republican and Democratic presidential candidates total an aggregate $12.8 million since 1989, over $3.7 million of that amount just in the first quarter of 2007 alone.

"No wonder that in the midst of an escalating healthcare crisis, most of the candidates are unwilling to confront the corporate giants and support reform that takes profiteering out of our healthcare system," Burger said.

A breakdown by industry shows that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the top recipient of pharmaceutical contributions and money from banks and securities and investment firms which are becoming increasingly powerful players in healthcare and political contributions, especially with the rapid growth of Health Savings Accounts and other reform plans that rely on financial institutions. HSAs are typically linked to high deductible health plans, and are a main feature of the Massachusetts health plan that Romney promoted while governor.

Sen. Christopher Dodd, whose home state houses corporate offices for many insurance corporations, is the top beneficiary of insurance and HMO donations. Clinton leads among donations from health professionals and lobbyists.

In Congress, the huge sums spent on lobbying have paid huge dividends for the healthcare industry, Burger noted. One example is the April 2007 vote in the Senate, after heavy lobbying by the pharmaceutical and insurance industry, to kill a bill to amend the 2003 Medicare drug benefit law to let Medicare use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices for seniors.

During the debate on the original bill, pharmaceutical and insurance companies spent so much that they could hire a different firm to lobby each key member of a critical committee (New York Times, Aug., 2005). Not surprisingly, the final bill requires seniors to go through private insurers to qualify for the drug benefit and barred the government from bargaining discounted prices.

As a result, drug prices in the U.S. continue to be 35% or more higher than in other Western nations. "Every day nurses see the consequences," said Burger. "We see families who share prescriptions so none of them get their needed dosage, and individuals who cut pills in half or run out of pills before the end of the month, ask the physician to prescribe a less effective generic drug or, worst of all, simply never fill the prescription due to its cost."

--PR Newswire

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WASHINGTON -- Massive spending by the healthcare industry is swamping the nation's political process, according to the findings of a new report issued today. It coincides with the premiere of Michael Moore's new documentary "SiCKO," a searing indictment of the...
Report,Details,Healthcare,Lobbying,Spending
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2007-00-22
Friday, 22 June 2007 12:00 AM
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