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Health Care: Follow the Money

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One of the first arguments which defenders of national health care make is that anyone who opposes health care legislation either in DC or in state government must be on the payroll of pharmaceutical companies or the health care industry or the insurance companies. Their argument is that the Democrats' proposals are good for the people and bad for the health care giants so those companies must be spending their lobbying money to encourage opposition — primarily from Republicans.

The one element of truth to this argument is that these companies do indeed spend money to advance their interests by lobbying and contributing to political campaigns. The health care and insurance giants have achieved a great portion of their current wealth and power through a long history of cooperation with government and through legislation on the state and national level which has given them effective monopolies and allowed them to increase prices and reduce services. Federal legislation has made employer-provided health care through group plans the standard, a system which discourages competition and allows insurance companies to engage in what is effectively price fixing. State legislation has put ridiculous coverage mandates on insurance companies and encouraged them to divide up territory and collude to raise prices in some states and not others, again limiting consumer choice and raising prices. Federal restrictions on drug importation have allowed pharmaceutical companies to charge exorbitant prices in the US to cover research and development expenses while selling those same drugs at a discount overseas.

Most of our current health care problems are the result of this unholy alliance between government and businesses in these industries. The government has created situations which have reduced competition and increased profit in all aspects of health care with no regard for the welfare of the people.

All of this is true. What is not true is that lobbyist money is being spent in opposition to the current attempts at restructuring the system. In fact, most lobbying money and most campaign contributions are going to those who support the current health care proposals because even more than past legislation, these new bills reduce competition, expand corporate profits and grow the power of government health care bureaucracy.

The Democrats have become the party of government, and more and more their main constituency is those who depend on government for their livelihood, including government workers, those living off government welfare, and corporations who benefit from government mandates. Their agenda is now to produce more and more legislation which empowers and expands government while enriching their favored business partners, for which they are richly rewarded.

The ugly truth about the health care plans now being considered on Capitol Hill is that their clearest identifying characteristic is that they do even more to limit competition and to increase profits for the insurance and health care industry, while massively expanding government bureaucracy and creating jobs for workers loyal to the statist Democrats. Nothing demonstrates the reality of this unholy alliance more clearly than the data on who the primary recipients of health care industry lobbying money really are.

Contrary to all the claims of journalists and health care advocates that Republicans are being paid off to oppose health care reform, the truth is that Democrats are receiving the lion's share of corporate health care money, especially those who have been most active in promoting these abominable health care "reform" bills whose main function is to enrich the companies who have paid off their sponsors.

According to an exhaustively detailed study from the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics, the top individual recipients of money from health care and insurance companies and lobbyists for 2009 are:

Patty Murray (D-WA) – $1,603,650
Mike Doyle (D-PA) – $1,093,250
Harry Reid (D-NV) – $735,500
Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) – $799,735
Byron L Dorgan (D-ND) – $628,150
Charles E Schumer (D-NY) – $666,168

If you aren't familiar with these Democrats, Doyle, Lincoln and Dorgan are all up for reelection in 2010 and all face tough races largely because of their positions on health care. They are also among the moderate "blue dogs" who flirted with opposing the health care proposals, but changed their minds, perhaps because their campaign war chests are so full of health care industry money. Murray is on all of the most important committees for the passage of health care, including Appropriations, Budget, and Health. Reid, of course, is the key figure in all of this as Senate Majority Leader. As for the rest of the Democrats, they got their payoffs too. Of the money contributed by health care-related businesses and lobbyists, more than two thirds went to Democrats. Less than half as much went to Republicans.

Now, admittedly, when Republicans were in control or shared the power in Congress more health care lobby money went to them than it does now. In 2008 they got about 45% to the Democrats' 55%. But even with that additional incentive, in their years in power they may have neglected real reforms, but they never attempted to pass the kind of health care boondoggle the Democrats have offered up at their first opportunity.

So when a talking head on MSNBC or a writer in the New York Times or a blogger or your neighbor or a friend points at a Republican Senator or Representative or a state legislator or attorney general and says that he's only opposing national health care because he took money from industry lobbyists, they are either ignorant or lying, because the big money is backing the health care legislation and the Democrats, and they're looking out for their profits and expanding their political power respectively, and neither of them is looking out for the interests of the people.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    Good morning, Dave –

    Actually, if you check the progressive websites you’ll see a lot of rage against the Dems who seemed to have sold out to the health insurance industry.

    But frankly, it’s not just the health insurance industry that’s giving more to the Dems. American businesses as a whole seem to be giving more to Democrats. Why? Because I suspect you’ll find that businesses contribute the most to the members of whichever party controls Congress at the time.

    I strongly recommend you read this 2007 article from Politico.com, where they describe how the GOP lost the support of the business community leading up to 2006…and includes some interesting facts about who was getting what, when:

    “In the first nine months of 2003, the top 25 financial services political action committees donated $6.8 million to members of Congress. Of that, 38 percent went to Democrats and 62 percent to Republicans, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, done at the request of Politico.

    During the same three-quarter period in 2005, those percentages were roughly the same.

    Between January and August of this year, the financial services committees donated $8.6 million – 51 percent went to Democrats and 49 percent to Republicans.

    While that ratio reflects the partisan breakdown on Capitol Hill, the shift for some organizations has been more dramatic. For instance, the Independent Community Bankers of America gave 67 percent of its donations to Republicans and just 33 percent to Democrats during the first three quarters of 2005.”

    Businesses give money for two reasons – one, to keep the congressman on its side, or two, to get the congressman on its side if the congressman isn’t there yet. The fact that the health insurance industry is giving much more money to the Dems doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dems are already in the health insurance industry’s pocketbook (though some certainly are). What it DOES mean is that the health insurance industry is striving mightily to get those Democrats in their pocketbooks if they aren’t already there.

    And if the Republicans were in control of Congress, I think my reference above shows clearly that the health insurance industry would be pouring millions more to them instead of to the Democrats.

  • John KC

    I agree. If Obama has never shown a birth certificate, he’s not legally president! GOP should impeach this Kenyan usurper as soon as they can.

  • Nice non-sequitur, John.

    Glenn, check the article. In the second to last paragraph I point out that even when the Republicans WERE in conrol of congress they still only got 45% of the health care money. That’s more than they are getting now, but clearly all along it has been the Democrats carrying water for big health care and big insurance.


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    In the second to last paragraph I point out that even when the Republicans WERE in conrol of congress they still only got 45% of the health care money.

    Not only did you provide a reference (unless that’s contained within the single reference earlier in your article), you apparently IGNORED half my comment, wherein I pointed out: “In the first nine months of 2003, the top 25 financial services political action committees donated $6.8 million to members of Congress. Of that, 38 percent went to Democrats and 62 percent to Republicans, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, done at the request of Politico.”

    But that’s only the financial sector, you say? The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) did a study of political donations in 1999-2000, and guess what they found?

    “For each election cycle, the CRP provides information on the 20 largest contributors in each of the 80 industries. The sample in this paper is constructed by using this information for the 1999 and 2000 election cycle. A company is included in the sample if it belongs to the 20 largest contributors in the 80 industries classified by the CRP, if it is publicly listed, and if the total donation exceeds $100,000. This results in a total of 315 sample companies. Table 2 provides an overview of the amounts of money that these companies donate to the Republican and the Democratic Parties. The total donations amount to $246 million, with $88 million going to the Democrats and $158 million going to the Republicans.”

    Okay, Dave? Whoever’s in control of Congress gets the most money (with the possible exception of transition years). That’s a FACT and your wishes can’t make it otherwise.

  • Glenn, I’m not writing about the financial sector in this article. It’s about the health care bill. And yes, the data is in that first link. I freely acknowledge that the GOP has its friends in the financial industries, just as the Democrats are in the pockets of the health care lobbyists.

    What’s your point? You seem willing to bring up just about anything to distract from the actual point of this article. So why not just admit that the health care plans they’re currently trying to reconcile are bought, paid for and even written by the health care and insurance industry?


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    If you want to get angry about something, read this list of sources on the fact-check page for Michael Moore’s movie, Sicko. The Democrats are by no means blameless (since Hillary was at one point the second-largest recipient of health insurance industry donations), but that industry’s involvement goes back much further…

    …and points out quite effectively the superiority – yes, superiority – of the health care for the populations of western Europe.

    And here’s this list on opensecrets.org of total donations to Republicans and Democrats by health services/HMO’s since 1990, and it’s just like I told you – the party in control of Congress generally gets more donations – and this includes from the health insurance industry!

    Glenn, check the article. In the second to last paragraph I point out that even when the Republicans WERE in conrol of congress they still only got 45% of the health care money.

    Okay, Dave? Get it? You’re WRONG! Why? Because the data provided by your reference only goes back to 2008!…and the Republicans were NOT in control of Congress in 2008. This is proof that you are wrong, that you are MISTAKEN in your belief that the Dems are historically greater recipients of money from the HMO’s et al.

    You’re not eager to admit error – very few people are – but it’s time to admit that you’re human and that you were wrong about something. And you know what? When you honestly and sincerely admit error, you gain the respect of those who value honesty and sincerity.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Oh, and Dave –

    If you’ll check the reference I provided, you’ll see that in the 2002 election cycle, health services and HMO’s contributions to Republicans was just over DOUBLE that of their contributions to Democrats – 67% to 33%.

    Y’know, fact-checking can be fun – especially when the facts are on my side…..

  • Glenn, I never argued that the money doesn’t go to whoever is in power. And you’re right, control of Congress was not with the Republicans in 2008, but more evenly divided, which explains the relatively even split of the money.

    But none of this even begins to dispute my basic point, which is that the party ramming through this unwanted and ill-conceived legislation is the one getting the money from the health care industry, which exposes the lie that said money is going to health care opponents. That’s the central point of this article. DO YOU DISPUTE IT? Or are you just going to continue quibbling?

    As for the superiority of European health care, there’s lots of evidence to dispute it which I’ve provided at length in previous articles. However, I do absolutely agree that European systems are FAR superior to the system proposed in the current bills in Congress. I’d gladly trade them for the French, Dutch or Danish systems in a heartbeat.

    The truth about European health care is that most of the really bad statistics seem to come from two countries – England and Germany. And why that is ought to be studied.


  • FitzBoodle

    So, are there a lot of statistics on Germany and English healthcare that show Germans and Brits being denied healthcare and going broke trying to pay for it?

  • No, Fitz. There are a lot of statistics showing Germans and Brits dealing with rationed care and dying as a result.

    Would you rather be broke or dead?