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Corporations bet on insiders to bend reform

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Health care investors have breathed a sigh of relief that the Senate health reform bill contains no government-run insurance plan but still dumps billions of dollars of subsidies into the health care sector.

For those corporate-friendly victories, some say, they have the lobbyists to thank.

Local health care heavyweights such as Eli Lilly and Co., Roche Diagnostics Corp., WellPoint Inc.  and their peers nationwide relied on a bevy of former congressional staffers and even some former legislators to turn the bill as favorably their way as possible.

That was the conclusion of an exhaustive analysis of public lobbying reports by the Chicago Tribune and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. They tallied 166 lobbyists for health care companies who used to be aides for the nine congressional leadership offices or the five committees involved in writing health reform legislation.

The lobbyists’ clients spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years, the Dec. 20 story reported.

Liberals have seized on the corporate lobbying bonanza in their criticism of the bill as a sellout to corporate interests.

“From start to finish, the insurance and drug industries—and their army of lobbyists—had control over the process that resulted in a bill that is reform in name only,” wrote liberal blogger Arianna Huffington after the key vote in the Senate.

The biggest spenders were drug industry groups, such as PhRMA and the Biotechnology Industry Organization. But individual companies did their part, too.

Lilly hired eight former legislative staffers from those key offices and committees, according to the Tribune’s database. In all, Lilly has 56 lobbyists working in Washington and spent $9 million on lobbying through the first nine months of this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"The numbers shouldn't surprise anyone," Ken Johnson, a senior vice president for PhRMA, the drug industry group, told the newspaper. "Former staffers have a unique understanding of how the legislative process works. And when you are trying to advocate on behalf of smart public policies, you want smart people on your team."

Roche Diagnostics lobbyists included three former staff members from the key offices and committees, as well as one ex-lawmaker—former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats.  Roche Diagnostics spent only $180,000 on lobbying through September, but its parent organization, Hoffmann-La Roche, racked up a $4 million bill.

WellPoint Inc. spent $3.6 million on lobbying through September, using two former staff members from the key committees and lawmakers. Its biggest goal has been to shoot down the public option, or a government-run insurance plan that would compete with WellPoint’s private health plans. So far, it’s succeeding.

But Andrew Rosenberg, a Roche Diagnostics lobbyist and a former staffer for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, told the Tribune that political conditions, not the inside connections of lobbyists, killed the public option.

"You could see this coming from a long way off,” he said. "It was going to have to be something that appeals to moderates" opposed to expanding government-run health insurance.

One other Indiana company, Bloomington-based Cook Group Inc., used as a lobbyist a former staff member of the House Ways and Means Committee. The company spent $240,000 on lobbying through the first nine months of the year.

Other Indiana health care companies lobbying this year included Batesville-based hospital bed maker Hill-Rom Holdings Inc. ($190,000), Warsaw-based orthopedic implant makers Zimmer Holdings Inc. ($165,000) and Biomet Inc. ($150,000), Indianapolis hospital systems Clarian Health ($160,000) and Community Health Network ($50,000), and life sciences industry group BioCrossroads ($65,000).

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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