Tag Archives: lobbying

CPI investigation details health information technology sector’s lobbying efforts

Writing for The Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News, Josh Israel reports that, with billions of stimulus dollars still at stake, the number of health information technology lobbyists taking advantage of the lucrative “revolving door” between Capitol Hill and the private sector is sky-high, even by D.C. standards.

The Obama administration is still working to iron out the details of the “meaningful use” mandate expressed in the recovery act, and the big players in health IT are pulling out all the stops to ensure the rules are written to their advantage.

Healthcare Informatics magazine publishes an annual ranking of the 100 largest health IT companies by annual revenue. According to the Senate Office of Public Records, 15 of the companies in the 2010 ranking — most of them ranked in the top third by revenue — reported health IT-related lobbying activity in the first quarter of 2011 or the last quarter of 2010. Of the 90 lobbyists listed as having done health IT lobbying for those firms, at least 63 were former Congressional and/or executive branch staffers, many of whom worked for health-related agencies or committees.

For those interested in additional details on HIT’s lobbying efforts, Israel also included two sidebars:

Hospital association official confuses news reporting with lobbying

Blythe Bernhard and Jeremy Kohler have been writing in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about Missouri hospitals’ unwillingness to publicly disclose medical errors.

So, when the St. Louis Metropolitan Hospital Council released a statement opposing public reporting of medical errors at hospitals, the reporters sent the statement to Missouri legislators and asked them for their comments.

I can only imagine the surprise Bernhard and Kohler felt when Daniel Landon, senior vice president of governmental relations for the Missouri Hospital Association, sent an e-mail to health professionals that characterized the reporters’ actions as coming “close to the definition of what constitutes lobbying, which is defined by the Missouri Ethics Commission and requires lobbyist registration.”

Landon said hospital association staff members planned to raise these concerns with legislators and had considered a complaint with the ethics commission.

“We think it is useful to put the Post-Dispatch on notice that someone is watching their actions in this regard,” Landon’s e-mail said. “Otherwise, the reporters will continue to push the envelope between reporting and promoting public policy changes to support their editorial positions.”

Another representative of the association later said the message was “regrettable.”

A Post-Dispatch editorial about the incident made clear to readers the difference between the editorial page and the news department, explaining that it “maintains strict church-state separation between the editorial page and the news department.”

When newspaper reporters or editorial writers communicate with legislators, we do so as journalists, acting in what we believe is the public interest. And regardless of whether public reporting of medical errors would serve hospitals’ interests, it clearly would serve the public interest.


Kohler wrote an article for AHCJ about how he and Bernhard investigated medical errors and the lack of public information available to help consumers choose their health care providers: Public handicapped by lack of information on medical errors.

Analysis reveals who hired health care lobbyists

The Center for Public Integrity has put together an interesting analysis and graph of what interests were lobbying on health care reform in Congress in 2009.

Information to create the chart is drawn from an analysis of Senate lobbying disclosure forms. The analysis found that “more than 1,750 companies and organizations hired about 4,525 lobbyists — eight for each member of Congress — to influence health reform bills in 2009.”

Trade, advocacy and professional organizations led the lobbying push, with hospitals, insurance companies and manufacturers behind them.

Some interesting tidbits:

  • AARP deployed 56 in-house lobbyists and two from outside firms
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had 47 lobbyists, all but eight from outside firms
  • The American Medical Association had 33, 11 from outside firms.
  • Some unexpected organizations, including Americans for the Arts and the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, also had lobbyists trying to influence health care legislation.

Health reform and the Supreme Court

Sarasota Health News‘ David Gulliver and Health News Florida’s Mary Jo Melone considered exactly how last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on campaign contributions by corporations would impact the health care lobby and the health reform debate. Their most interesting angle? That health care companies have already spent such gigantic sums of money on lobbying (more than $2.2 billion in 2008 and 2009) that the ruling won’t have the same impact on health as it will on other industries. In other words, the medical industry has already had the volume on the lobbying amp cranked to 10 for some time now, and it’s just not possible to ratchet it up any higher.

Gulliver and Melone on exactly what has changed in theory:

Until now, companies could not spend their own money directly on political advertising. They had to create political action committees, or a shadowy type of nonprofit known as a 527 organization. Then those groups could raise money from donors to pay for advertisements. For PACs, those donations are limited under federal law to $5000 per person per year.

In practice, the impact is less clear. Even under the previous system, those with money found ways to use it with impunity. It’ll be a more straightforward process now but, especially in health care, may not lead to huge changes in the money being spent. According to one school of thought, the biggest change will be in the use of explicit anti-candidate advertising threats as a metaphorical club during negotiations.

NOTE: It’s important to remember that, in a companion decision, the court upheld the transparency requirements that accompany these political donations.  If you’re interested in tracking the changes in donations post-decision, head over to OpenSecrets.org, where they have a post explaining exactly how to use their tools to do so.

As for immediate impact, the reporters quote several experts who seem to think that unrestrained spending won’t transform the health care reform debate, partly because it’s already been so thoroughly transformed by other factors.

(Brad Ashwell of Florida Public Interest Research Group) said the legislative health-reform package pending in Congress is already “pretty moderate,” and it’s not likely to get more consumer-friendly now that business interests “can go straight to their treasuries.”

Even before the Supreme Court ruling, chances of helping Florida’s 3.8 million uninsured were looking increasingly sketchy, with a special-election loss that cost Democrats a crucial seat in the U.S. Senate this week. The only quick route to passage was for the House to accept the version of the legislative package that barely passed in the Senate on Christmas Eve, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday she doesn’t have the votes to pull it off.

Ifill digs into health reform lobbying money

PBS Newshour’s Gwen Ifill filed a report on the staggering sums of money spent on lobbying by various industries whose balance sheets are riding on the outcome of health care reform.

Photo by ragesoss via Flickr

She leads with big numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics, including $400 million from the health care sector and $120 million from insurers in the first nine months of 2009 alone. To drive those numbers home, the Center’s Dave Levinthal even called it one of the “biggest lobbying efforts ever on a single piece of legislation that the United States has ever seen.”

According to Levinthal, health reform’s unique combination of a massive industry and a long, drawn-out process has created a sort of perfect storm for lobbyists. He added that, while strides have been made since the Abramoff days, lobbyists still have a long way to go in the transparency department. An analysis released by the center finds that “the senators who opposed the health insurance reform bill passed on Christmas Eve received an average of nearly 30 percent more political donations from political action committees and individual employees of health and health insurance-related groups and companies since 1989.”