Interest Groups’ Interest in Health Care Reform Rises

Doctors reviewing x-raysDespite the ongoing economic recession, lobbying is one industry that is booming. Spending by interest groups in Washington, D.C., has skyrocketed in the second quarter of 2009. The reason? To try to influence the debate over health care reform legislation that is working its way through Congress. Legislators are considering proposals to rein in health care costs, to expand coverage, and to improve care, and numerous different groups have much at stake in the outcome. After all, the health care industry represents about one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Lobbyists for the industry have positioned themselves to protect their clients’ bottom-line interests and to help shape the changes to the health care system that would affect them most.

Hundreds of lobbyists are jamming the halls of the Capitol. The combined spending by lobbyists for drug manufacturers, doctors and hospitals, and insurance companies has topped $133 million, according to filings with a Senate office that keeps such records. Pharmaceutical companies spent more than any other health care organizations to influence lawmakers. Besides money spent directly to support lobbyists’ efforts, there has been a surge in campaign donations from health care interests, as well as ad campaigns aimed at promoting, or opposing, specific aspects of the proposed reforms. Even groups that might seem to have little stake in a debate over health care are involved. For example, the American Beverage Association, which lobbies on behalf of soft drink makers, has been fighting proposals that would tax sodas to pay for health care.

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