Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Real Politics of Healthcare Reform

Who is really shaping current healthcare reform efforts? I have discussed the Republican versus Democrat infighting going on and more importantly the economic factors that must be addressed, and soon. But are either of these forces really doing the influencing of policy makers in Washington? Sadly, I think not. A recently released report showed that last year there were eight registered healthcare lobbyists for every member of Congress. Eight to one; that seems like a lot. A total of 1,750 companies and organizations spent $1.2 billion on healthcare lobbying last year and it apparently paid off for them. This according to the Center for Public Integrity which closely monitors this situation.

Lobbyists blocked key provisions of the plans including a robust government -run insurance program to compete with private health insurance providers, and significant cost cutting measures aimed at healthcare companies. Large hospital systems and insurance companies are well represented in the lobby groups with hospitals outnumbering insurance companies by two to one. This is a bit surprising to me, but I will bet that the insurance lobby as a group far outspent the hospitals.

However the real lobbyists are the professional and trade groups, particularly AARP and the AMA. Altogether there were 475 of these groups each playing their own part to shape or more probably block true healthcare reform. Even Dunkin' Donuts paid to have their say. I can only imagine what they wanted.

So I don't know what is more depressing; that we have eight lobbyists for every Congressman or that they were all so effective at influencing the legislation. This does not bode well for meaningful healthcare reform going forward. The obstacles are many, but the core problems we are facing will not go away on their own.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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