Medical insurers and drug companies spent 41% more on lobbying this year

Lobbying boosted as health care debate heats up

USA TODAY WASHINGTON – The largest medical insurers and drug companies spent 41% more on lobbying this year as Congress began debate on an overhaul of health care, which may include a public insurance plan the industries oppose.

The largest medical insurers and drug companies spent 41% more on lobbying this year as Congress began debate on an overhaul of health care, which may include a public insurance plan the industries oppose.

Despite an overall decline in lobbyist spending this year, a USA TODAY review of disclosure reports found 20 of the largest health insurance and drug companies and their trade groups spent nearly $35 million in the first quarter of 2009, up more than $10 million from the same period last year.

Drug and insurance companies support many changes Congress is considering but generally oppose government-run insurance, which President Obama touted Thursday in Green Bay, Wis. Public insurance is facing criticism from business groups and the American Medical Association, which will host Obama on Monday in Chicago.

Ken Johnson, senior vice president with the trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said public insurance would stifle competition and force Americans to lose private coverage. He said his group is pushing for other changes instead.

“The overwhelming amount of money we have spent is in support of comprehensive health care reform,” said Johnson, whose group spent $6.9 million in 2009, up 91% from 2008. “There are certainly aspects … troubling to us, including the public option.”

Pfizer’s lobbying more than doubled to $6.1 million, and Merck’s increased 44% to $1.5 million.

“We believe that the private health care marketplace fosters competition, innovation and consumer choice,” read a Merck statement. A Pfizer statement read, “We are committed to making our voice heard and to be constructively engaged” in the debate.

Richard Kirsch of Health Care for America Now, a coalition of unions and non-profits supporting public insurance, said he is “extraordinarily worried” about the lobbying by those opposed to a public plan. “The other side is going to be out-spending us inside the Beltway,” he said.

Outside Washington, an alliance of groups that support public insurance, including Kirsch’s, vowed to spend $82 million on community organizing and advertising this year. Some have spent more on lobbying, too. The Service Employees International Union, for instance, increased spending 46% to $690,131, lobbying reports show.

All health sectors spent $149 million on lobbying this year, a 10% jump, according to CQ MoneyLine, a non-partisan website. Overall spending on lobbying is down 2.6% this year, according to the site.

Health lobbying

Lobbying expenses increased 41% for 20 large insurance and drug companies in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year.

COMPANY
2008
2009
PERCENT CHANGE
Pfizer 2,800,000 6,140,000 119%
Health Net 160,000 330,000 106%
Cigna 230,000 450,000 96%
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America{+-}{+1} 3,610,000 6,910,000 91%
Merck 1,040,000 1,500,000 44%
Abbott Labratories 880,000 1,260,000 43%
Aetna 575,459 809,793 41%
UnitedHealth Group 1,120,000 1,500,000 34%
Wyeth 697,236 876,399 26%
Eli Lilly 2,895,000 3,440,000 19%
WellPoint 1,050,000 1,220,000 16%
Humana 320,000 370,000 16%
Schering-Plough 520,000 600,000 15%
America’s Health Insurance Plans{+-}{+1} 1,820,000 2,030,000 12%
Amgen 2,520,000 2,750,000 9%
Johnson & Johnson 1,440,000 1,530,000 6%
Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association 1,720,000 1,800,000 5%
Gilead Sciences 260,000 270,000 4%
Coventry Health Care 150,000 150,000 0%
Bristol-Myers Squibb 840,000 814,676 -3%

Source: USA TODAY analysis of Secretary of Senate lobbying disclosure reports {+1}{+-}Trade organization

By John Fritze
June 12, 2009

Source: USA Today

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