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Health industry funding GOP more than Dems; anti-reform activity ramps up

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Health industry funding GOP more than Dems; anti-reform activity ramps up

Politico: "A new portrait of the health industry landscape has begun to take shape, with some of those major players shifting their dollars from the very Democrats who passed the law they seemingly endorsed at the White House. The insurance industry, for instance, has consistently donated more to Republicans than to Democrats ever since August 2009." Health professional organizations, drugmakers and others in the health sector that once supported passage of the law have "poured nearly $40 million into the 2010 elections cycle" through political action committees. "A Center for Responsive Politics analysis for Politico reveals a marked shift from political giving to Democrats as health reform became more of a certainty — even among those who signed on as key partners in passing the overhaul" (Kliff, 10/4).

Chicago Tribune: "Since January, the nation's five largest insurers and the industry's Washington-based lobbying arm have given three times more money to Republican lawmakers and political action committees than to Democrats." In 2009, the industry was largely split in its donations to Democrats and Republicans. "But insurers are increasingly balking at myriad new directives in the health care law. Among other things, it prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to sick children and canceling policies when customers get sick. The law bars insurers from placing lifetime caps on how much they will pay when their customers get ill. Many consumers also will get new rights to appeal denied claims and win new access to preventive care without being asked for co-pays" (Levey, 10/4).

The Washington Post: Republicans in Congress plan on targeting the health law after the midterm elections in November, even if they don't make the big gains they are forecasting. "If they win the House, and possibly the Senate, they say, among their top priorities will be to undo President Obama's signature legislative achievement. … But even in the unlikely event that an outright repeal bill could withstand a filibuster in the Senate, there is little doubt that Obama would veto it. The odds that Republicans will win a veto-proof majority in November are generally considered slim to nil." But the GOP also is planning to slow the preparations for 2014, when most of the health overhaul goes into effect. "Republicans say they would try to deny any additional money Obama requests for implementation over the next two years, either by refusing to include it in the appropriations bill covering each agency or by tightening their overall budgets" (Aizenman, 10/3).

Politico, in a separate story: "While new Republican leaders of key health committees wouldn't become official until January, one thing is crystal clear: Whoever takes the seat in the event of a shift in power in November will make implementing the law as difficult as possible for the Obama administration." The key committee chairmanship will be the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. "The panel will have the authority to limit or expand funding to the Departments of Health and Human Services and Labor, which are overseeing parts of the law's implementation" (Haberkorn, 10/4).

Related, earlier KHN story: GOP Plan To Change Or Repeal Health Law Could Bring New Complications (Carey, 9/20)

The Washington Times: Meanwhile, the law is facing a test in three states. "Arizonans, Coloradans and Oklahomans will decide this fall whether to approve proposed constitutional amendments that would allow them to opt out of key provisions of President Obama's signature national health care law." Each of these ballot initiatives would prohibit the federal government from "forcing individuals to buy health care insurance — a 'mandate' that critics say violates the U.S. Constitution. There's just one problem, say opponents of the state ballot initiatives ... Federal law trumps state law, meaning that the measures are certain to be overturned even if they win 100 percent of the vote" (Richardson, 10/3).

The New York Times: The largest union of nurses in the nation is running ads this week against Republican Sharron Angle, who is opposing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the race for his Nevada Senate seat. They are spending $200,000 in advertising aimed at defeating her. "Union leaders describe the race as their top priority in the midterm elections, and the advertising campaign is the largest ever expenditure on a political race by the union, National Nurses United, officials said" (Lovett, 10/3).

The New York Times, in a separate story: Other groups also are spending this campaign season on messaging on the health overhaul, and some of those groups remain secret. "Nonprofits can raise unlimited amounts, and spend a good percentage of that on political activities. But they are generally not required to publicly disclose their donors, making them appealing to moneyed interests who prefer to stay in the shadows." The Times looked into one group, the "Coalition to Protect Seniors," and could not find out much, including who was in charge (McIntire, 10/2).

CongressDaily reports that the health law will be part of departing White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's legacy. "If Nancy-Ann DeParle was the brains and Jim Messina the access, then Emanuel proved to be the tactician, often pressing lawmakers for their votes even while they played coy with their commitments in public. When he was on the Hill, Emanuel huddled with party leaders, walking quickly from office-to-office and giving reporters who were hungry for any scrap of news little more than a smile. … While DeParle may have logged more hours on Capitol Hill, Emanuel's presence was never far behind. One healthcare lobbyist, who helped engineer a deal between the White House and hospital groups that cleared an important early obstacle, remembers Emanuel as being fully engaged despite leaving the details to others" (DoBias, 10/1).

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent news service. It is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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