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.