KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Care Industry Increases Lobbying Spending

Drug companies "boosted their lobbying in Washington during the three months (that) ended June 30 amid a flurry of congressional action on health care," while overall, "Washington's lobbying business continued to slump as the economy pinched budgets at some big companies and trade associations," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Drug manufacturers increased lobbying spending 13% to $68 million in the second quarter from a year earlier, according to the data … Overall, the health-care sector reported a 5% increase in lobbying expenditures to $133 million, making it the single largest spender on lobbying of the 10 major industry sectors tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics. Health-insurance companies increased lobbying activity by 11% to $7.8 million, according to the data" (Mullins and Farnam, 8/3). 

"The strategic course the White House has chosen may have had the unintended effect of increasing the breadth and complexity of the battle involving" special interests,"  The New York Times reports. 

"There are two reasons for that. The first is that Mr. Obama's aides, having studied the failure of the health overhaul effort in 1993-94, decided to defer to Congress in assembling legislation rather than hand lawmakers a specific proposal as President Bill Clinton had done. That made Congress the pressure point from the start. And individual members of Congress, lacking the president's clout or bully pulpit, are easier for lobbyists to influence. Second, the Congressional route has yielded different proposals in various committees rather than a single administration plan. That, in turn, has muffled the clarity of the administration's advocacy, while accelerating the lobbying scramble on Capitol Hill as affected interests fan out in pursuit of multiple targets" (Harwood, 8/1).

Meanwhile, "For the first time since 1992, Democrats in Congress are collecting more political contributions than Republicans from health-industry donors, with some like Rep. Carolyn McCarthy relying on them as the single biggest source of campaign cash," Newsday reports. "As the Congressional debate heats up ... records show money from doctors, insurers, pharmaceutical firms and hospital and nursing home groups has been flowing increasingly into Democratic coffers - jumping from $36.9 million in the 2006 campaign to $90.7 million in 2008."

"Among House Democrats, the average total from the health sector jumped from $74,317 in the 2006 campaign to $118,348 last year. Of the Long Island House members, only McCarthy exceeded last year's national average." And in the Senate, "Democrats saw their average health-sector contributions soar from $176,748 in 2006 to $724,294 last year, records show" (Maier, 8/2).

Politico: "As health care reform legislation grows more sweeping and touches on a larger share of the national economy, businesses and trade groups with little experience in lobbying - but huge stakes in the still-brewing legislation - are paying big bucks to K Street firms to stick up for their interests, recent lobbying disclosure reports show" (Abrahamson, 8/3).

Roll Call: "Some of the top dogs at the major health care lobbying organizations have cut a handful of personal checks, according to just-filed semiannual LD-203 reports. Not surprisingly, the recipients of those donations are some of the Members in charge of crafting health care reform legislation" (Ackley and Palmer, 8/3).

Star Tribune: "As the nation faces a political showdown over health insurance reform, insurers worried that an overhaul could hurt their bottom line are funneling a wave of cash to members of Congress. That includes Minnesota, where Republicans are the biggest beneficiaries of the industry's largesse. Sixth District Rep. Michele Bachmann, an outspoken foe of a government insurance option, is among the top recipients this year in the entire U.S. House" (Doyle, 8/2).

Journal Sentinel: "In Wisconsin, insurance giant Blue Cross/Blue Shield or people who work for the company are among the top campaign contributors to Rep. Paul Ryan's political committees so far this year with $10,000 in donations, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Janesville Republican has collected more money from the insurance industry - $493,000 - than from any other interest group during his 10 years in Congress" (Marerro, 8/2).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.