Saturday, October 03, 2009

Burying Healthcare Reform with Money

It's war. America's healthcare industry has launched a legion of lobbyists to overrun, even overwhelm Congress to block public medical insurance and thwart other reforms.

Sounds like hyperbole? Not really. What else can you call it when Big Med is waging its campaign with six lobbyists for every member of Congress? From The Guardian:

The industry and interest groups have spent $380m (£238m) in recent months influencing healthcare legislation through lobbying, advertising and in direct political contributions to members of Congress. The largest contribution, totalling close to $1.5m, has gone to the chairman of the senate committee drafting the new law.

...Drug and insurance companies say they are merely seeking to educate politicians and the public. But with industry lobbyists swarming over Capitol Hill ‑ there are six registered healthcare lobbyists for every member of Congress ‑ a partner in the most powerful lobbying firm in Washington acknowledged that healthcare firms' money "has had a lot of influence" and that it is "morally suspect".

Right, and can anyone guess just how much "education" a senator can get with $1.5m of Big Med money in his pocket?

A primary target of criticism is Senator Max Baucus, the single largest recipient of health industry political donations and chairman of the finance committee that drafted the legislation criticised by Woolhander.

The committee this week twice voted against including public insurance in the legislation, with Baucus opposing it both times.

Baucus took $1.5m from the health sector for his political fund in the past year. Other members of the committee have received hundreds of thousands of dollars. They include Senator Pat Roberts, who last week tried to stall the bill by arguing that lobbyists needed three days to read it.

Baucus holds dinners for health industry executives at which they pay thousands of dollars each to be at the table, and an annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in his home state of Montana that lobbyists pay handsomely to attend. They have included John Jonas, who represents healthcare firms for Patton Boggs, widely regarded as the top lobbying firm in Washington. Jonas, who formerly worked on the congressional staff, acknowledges that political contributions are intended to buy influence and says it works.


Anonymous said...

Gees...with all that money they could open a fund for people who cannot afford healthcare in the US. A. Morris

The Mound of Sound said...

I think holding any congressional office pays too well today to tolerate anything approaching "government of the people, by the people, for the people." When legislators are so fiercely bought it leaves little room for democracy.

Anonymous said...

You (and Michael Moore) are telling it like it is. Can you have democracy when the parties answer to their corporate bosses?

The Mound of Sound said...

I fear Joyce that we may be heading the same way. With the Tories playing Republicans and the Libs reprising the role of Democrats, centre-right mirror images of each other, can this sort of corruption be far off?

It strikes me that getting both key political parties ideologically closer is what facilitates this sort of corruption.