Health Industry Passes Financial Sector in Lobbying Race

Saturday, May 16, 2009

For months, Americans sat by and watched as the banking and finance industry, in the wake of their self-induced meltdown, got just about everything they wanted from both the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Now it’s the turn of the health care industry.

 
Between 1997 and 2008, the financial sector, including insurance and real estate, spent $3.6 billion on lobbying, with health care lobbyists close behind at $3.4 billion. But in the first three months of 2009, health care moved ahead of the bankers and friends in the lobbying race $127 million to $112 million.
 
Last week, President Obama met with trade associations and labor unions from the health care industry. Among those who appeared at a public photo-op with President Obama were representatives from some of the biggest spenders on lobbying. These included. the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which spent $6.9 million on lobbying in the first quarter of this year; the American Medical Association (AMA), $4.4 million; the American Hospital Association (AHA), $4.2 million; and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), $2 million. These trade groups employ many influential former government figures. In the case of PhRMA, their lead lobbyist is former Louisiana Congressman Billy Tauzin, who began as a Democrat and switched to the Republican Party in 1995. Tauzin joined PhRMA two months after he guided through Congress a Medicare drug bill that was viewed as friendly to the pharmacwutical industry.
 
Obama praised the industry for offering to reduce the cost of health care by $2 trillion over the next 10 years, but the plan was a bit vague when it came to specifics. The voluntary promise is seen as part of the industry’s efforts to counter a new government insurance plan being discussed in Congress that would provide coverage for the 50 million non-elderly Americans who are currently uninsured. While accepting the accommodating gesture, legislators are still skeptical. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), stated, "I am not about to take the fox's word that the hen house is safe" and emphasized that the industry's promises need to be given the weight of law.
-David Wallechinsky, Vivian Kim
 
Lobbying Ranked Sectors (Center for Responsive Politics)
Obama Praises Health Industry’s Vows to Cut Costs (by Erica Werner, Associated Press)

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