Sofia D. Marin
The nation’s health care industry has hired more than 350 former government officials and members of Congress in a determined campaign to influence health care reform efforts on Capitol Hill, according to federally required disclosure reports.
Leading all other industries, the health care industry is spending a record-breaking $1.4 million a day on lobbying efforts as legislators and the White House hammer out details of a reform package requested by President Obama. According to an analysis of lobbying records by the Washington Post, three out of every four major health care companies have at least one former government insider on the payroll.
With enough support from current and former members of Congress, the health lobby is trying to minimize reductions in revenue flowing to insurers, hospitals and other major sectors, while maximizing the potential of up to 46 million uninsured Americans as new customers.
The lobbying torrent troubles public interest groups and reform advocates, among others. They are concerned that the concentration of former government aides in the lobbying sector has interfered with the health-care debate, and question whether the revolving door between government and private firms leaves Americans out in the cold.
"The revolving door offers a short cut to a member of Congress to the highest bidder," Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, told the Post. "It's a small cost of doing business relative to the profits they can garner."
The industry is aggressively targeting individual Democrats, having already struck a deal with Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee which is helping to steer reform efforts.
The push has reuntied many who worked together in government on health care reform, but are now working as advocates for pharmaceutical and insurance companies.
While some firms have promised to cut costs in accordance with Obama’s public-insurance option, major players such as Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) have remained opposed to the option, doubling their lobbying spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009.