Sunday, November 02, 2008

Follow the Money

Perhaps Anticipating Reform Health Money Swings to Dems

"Widely perceived to be one of the nation's biggest challenges, health care reform will be at the top of the next administration's agenda, and a battle over proposed changes is certain. For the past 15 years, the health sector, which is already gearing up for next year's fight, has given more money to Republicans than Democrats. But with Democrats in control of Congress-and likely to pick up a few more seats next week-the tide is turning. Out of the $123 million contributed by the drug manufacturers, doctors, HMOs, hospitals and other interests in the health sector this election cycle, 53 percent has gone to Democratic candidates, committees and parties and 46 percent to Republican.

'They're reading the political tea leaves like everybody else,' said Robert B. Healms, a health care policy expert at the American Enterprise Institute. 'There are strong expectations that [Barack Obama] will win, and you could probably find [this financial trend] when administrations change from Republicans to Democrats.

The pharmaceutical and health products industry has spent at least $135 million on federal lobbying so far in 2008, twice as much as any of the other industries in the health sector this year. Perhaps this is not surprising because the drug industry is heavily affected by the rules of Medicare Part D, a federal program that subsidizes prescription drug costs. "This is an industry that is very dependent on what the government policy is," Healms said. "It affects their markets and their ability to sell."

Political scientists agree. "This sub-sector has emerged as a key target of government regulation in recent years," said Steven J. Balla, a political scientist at George Washington University who focuses on health care policy. "With so much at stake, this spending (on lobbying) makes sense."

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