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Health Care Associations Boost Lobbying Expenditures

As the Democratically controlled Congress moves aggressively to pass a massive health care reform package, several industry stakeholders reported a marked increase in lobbying spending during the first six months of 2009.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a massive trade group, reported one of the largest increases in lobbying spending among health care interests, increasing its spending by more than 50 percent this year.

The trade association, which cut an $80 billion deal with President Barack Obama to help pay for health care reform, spent $13.1 million on lobbying during the first six months of 2009. The group doled out $8.6 million during the first half of 2008.

PhRMA, which has more than 30 lobby shops on retainer, this year beefed up its work with outside lobbying firms, hiring Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Capitol Tax Partners; Derrick White; Elmendorf Strategies; PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Mike Slotznick.

PhRMA spokesman Ken Johnson said the increase in lobbying spending shouldn’t come as a shock, given the group’s large stake in getting health care reform passed.

“With our $80 billion pledge toward comprehensive health care reform, an increase in our lobbying efforts should come as no big surprise,— Johnson wrote in an e-mail.

“We have an historic opportunity to make certain that everyone in America has access to high quality, affordable health care coverage, and we’re going to do our part to make it happen,— he added.

Health insurers, which have come under increasing attack from Obama and recently launched their industry’s first major TV issue-advertising campaign, also upped their spending in the first half of this year.

America’s Health Insurance Plans reported spending $3.9 million, compared with $3.7 million for the first half of 2008.

“Our central focus is on comprehensive health care reform,— said AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach. “The numbers reflect that there’s a lot more focus on health care this year.—

One controversial aspect of health care reform — creating follow-on or generic biologic drugs — has helped fuel the spending for several of the groups.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association both are pushing for a speedy path to follow-on biologics with fewer than 12 years of market exclusivity for brand-name biologics. For the first half of this year, the GPA spent $1.1 million on lobbying (up from $894,000 for the first half of 2008), and PCMA reported spending $557,000 for the first six months of 2009 (up from $187,000 for the first six months of 2008).

“The nature of the debate has gotten more intense,— said Kathleen Jaeger, president and CEO of GPA.

Her side faced a setback when the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee adopted a generic biologics proposal that gave brand-name makers 12 years of market exclusivity — which Jaeger calls “excessive.—

She said her group won’t back down from the lobbying effort, and she noted that her side’s main opponents in the debate — PhRMA and the Biotechnology Industry Organization — have much larger arsenals when it comes to lobbying spending.

“Our association’s budget right now is roughly about $7 million. That’s not even pocket change for PhRMA and BIO.—

BIO spokesman Jeff Joseph said the issue of follow-on biologics and health care reform in general has made the first half of 2009 a busy year, even though the group’s federal lobbying budget has remained mostly steady.

For the first half of 2009, BIO reported spending $3.7 million, while it reported spending $3.8 million for the same time in 2008.

“These are issues we’ve been lobbying on for several years,— Joseph said, noting that health care reform isn’t the only issue keeping BIO members busy on Capitol Hill. “We’ve also been working on energy issues and agriculture.

The Federation of American Hospitals, which in the first half of 2008 spent $1.1 million, upped its spending for the first half of this year to $1.8 million on federal lobbying.

While most groups in the health sector have stepped up their federal lobbying spending, the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association both decreased their lobbying expenditures.

The AMA dropped its spending by 24 percent for the first half of 2009. The association reported spending $8.3 million during the first half of 2009, compared to $10.9 million during the same time period in 2008.

But that doesn’t mean AMA is backing down on health care.

“AMA is working for health reform this year that provides all Americans with affordable, high-quality health care coverage, and our advocacy work reflects our commitment to improving the health care system for patients and physicians,— AMA President James Rohack wrote in an e-mail. “We will stay actively engaged with Congress and the administration to get meaningful health care legislation enacted this year that includes coverage for all and Medicare physician payment reform.—