Health Care Deform: 1.4 million dollars a day fighting your best interests

Only the numbers are staggering.  


For those with any insight to how our government is bought and sold, the players and the process are familiar. 


Today's WaPo article on health lobbying was apparently not subject to editorial review by one of Katharine Weymouth's 'salons' and provides hope that Management doesn't fully overrule journalistic values of the newsroom.  This is an important article: 



...three of every four major health-care firms have at least one former insider on their lobbying payrolls, according to The Washington Post's analysis.

 

Nearly half of the insiders previously worked for the key committees and lawmakers, including Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), debating whether to adopt a public insurance option opposed by major industry groups. At least 10 others have been members of Congress, such as former House majority leaders Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) and Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), both of whom represent a New Jersey pharmaceutical firm.

 

The hirings are part of a record-breaking influence campaign by the health-care industry, which is spending more than $1.4 million a day on lobbying in the current fight, according to disclosure records. And even in a city where lobbying is a part of life, the scale of the effort has drawn attention. For example, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) doubled its spending to nearly $7 million in the first quarter of 2009, followed by Pfizer, with more than $6 million.

There's no quarter allowable in a fight where every individual needs health care and the insurance industry needs to suck that 15% margin of financial fat out of the system in order to thrive. 


In many ways, it literally IS a fight to the death. 


So it's no surprise to see the likes of Dick Armey, top teabagger of FreedomWorks, out there stumping for the real clients of his 'grassroots' operation.  Same as it ever was.


A point I'd like to emphasize, I do so because it may not be obvious.  PhRMA is mentioned, above, as a clear industry advocate.  But they weren't in the circle when Max Baucus had eight single-payer advocates arrested and thrown out of his first 'stakeholder' roundtable. 


If you'll recall, the 'stakeholder' lobbyists laughed at the Baucus joke about needing more police, perhaps because they know well the sort of order he's supposed to keep.  Apparently, neither had banked on the real grassroots (hint: see Armey-Freedomworks for contrast) revival that's emerging as people recognize that a change in Party doesn't always mean that the owners have changed too.


But one of the 'stakeholders' probably laughed the loudest, and that would have been the US Chamber of Commerce:


In the first three months of 2009, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent more money on lobbying since 1998 than any other company, trade association, or advocacy group, and the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhARMA)--the No. 6 all-time spender--paid lobbyists a combined $22.5 million to promote their interests. (OpenSecrets.org)

The Chamber serves to launder interests of the richest money in the corporate world and, with the Post article as example, it's my sense that the Chamber of Commerce is not cited as frequently as it actually represents health care industry interests.


Imagine how much it took to get a seat at the Baucus-Grassley roundtable and, then, you can understand why I think the Chamber's role in health care lobbying is understated.


A current review of lobbying interests ranked the Chamber of Commerce and affiliated US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, first, and third, respectively, in the "Other" category (they hold #1 and #9 among the top 100 lobbyists). 


Under "Health Care, Health Insurance ahd Pharmaceuticals", PhRMA came ahead of second-place Pfizer.


So, somehow while escaping the health-care or insurance lobbyist label, the Chamber took a stakeholder seat at the health care reform roundtable while the vested interests of PhRMA and Pfizer presumably laughed from the peanut gallery. 


How'd that happen?  Who knows, the latter may pay the Chambers to lobby for them.


Back to the same Washington Post article, where the dishonest arguments of Billy Tauzin should help to make clear that the stakes in this fight are so huge, it's worth being quoted in irrelevant and idiotic defense of his efforts to fight the public interest. He gets paid very well enough to say anything for a profitable cause:



Tauzin and other lobbyists rebuff critics, arguing that it is unsurprising that those with experience on Capitol Hill should then draw on that background.


"Is it a distortion of baseball to hire coaches who have played baseball? Is it a distortion of universities to hire from academia?" Tauzin asked rhetorically. "The bottom line is that people work in the fields in which they have experience. Somehow there are people who think that's unusual for politics, but I think it's pretty normal."


Billy, your distortion doesn't hide the fact that baseball has no say in life and death for millions.


And my closing note regarding the title of this piece. 


Many of the same players looking to own the final shape of health care reform are exactly the same interest-fronting advocates as have been, and are still, pushing for 'tort reform' that seeks to limit the means by which individuals can hold industry accountable for making defective products, in tort cases. 


Those who advocate civil justice issues in the public interest use 'tort deform' to define what is at stake in the fight against big business' struggle to limit its liability. 


Health care reform advocates of the public interest should take heed in considering the very rich much-the-same opposition.


[UPDATED with additional material - deltadoc]


 

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