Indiana health groups dial back lobbying

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Indiana health-related companies were somewhat absent from the lobbying bonanza that gripped Washington, D.C., last year. For all the heat and light about health reform, major Indiana companies actually spent slightly less to lobby Congress.

Overall spending on lobbying by the health industry rose 11 percent to a massive $539.4 billion. But among the 10 largest health care organizations in Indiana, as well as a key industry group, spending on lobbying actually fell 3 percent.

A big reason was that Eli Lilly and Co., which led all pharmaceutical companies with its lobbying in 2008, drew back a bit. Its total tab in 2009 was 10-percent less, but still $11.2 million.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker generally favored the Democrats’ health reform bills—so long as they did not include a public option and granted 12 years of exclusivity before biotech drugs could be copied by generic competitors. Lilly has so far gotten what it wanted on both counts.

Lilly’s belt-tightening was more than offset by WellPoint Inc., the Indianapolis-based health insurer that has now become President Obama’s No. 1 foil in his drive to get health reform passed. He wants the House of Representatives to vote on a Senate version of reform, and a separate package of changes to it, by Saturday.

WellPoint spent $4.7 million on lobbying last year, up 21 percent from the previous year.

There also were big spikes in spending by most of Indiana’s medical-device companies, particularly after the Senate version of health reform threatened to stick the industry with $4 billion a year in fees. Those fees have since been whittled, but the medical-device industry still grumbles about them.
Bloomington-based Cook Group Inc. boosted its lobbying by 52 percent to $350,000. Warsaw-based Zimmer Holdings spent $240,000, a 45-percent jump. And Zimmer’s crosstown rival Biomet Inc. spent a whopping 76-percent more, for a total of $370,000.

But counteracting those increases was a pullback by Roche Diagnostics, which maintains its U.S. headquarters in Indianapolis; Roche slashed spending by 75 percent, to just $222,000.

The health reform debate did bring some first-time lobbyists into the game. Batesville-based Hill-Rom Holdings Inc. spent $270,000. And Indianapolis-based hospital system Community Health Network spent $130,000.

The count in Indiana might be skewed lower because doctors, who contribute to lobbying through their various national associations, increased overall lobbying by 8 percent. But other major organizations in Indiana spent less on lobbying in 2009, for various reasons.

Hospitals also tended to spend less in 2009 than the year before. Hospitals, as a whole, supported the Democratic health reform proposals, which would subsidize insurance so that 31 million additional Americans would have coverage. That means more paying customers for hospitals.

Indianapolis-based Clarian Health dropped its lobbying spending by 20 percent, to $210,000. The Sisters of St. Francis Health Services Inc., based in Mishawaka, Ind., reduced its lobbying expenses by 38 percent, to $80,000.

BioCrossroads, the Indianapolis-based life sciences development group, spent $83,000 on federal lobbying, down 13 percent from the previous year.


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