Public Option Dies in Senate While Health Industry Money Flows

December 14, 2009 - The health care industry’s multi-million dollar investment in the Senate seems to be paying off, as the proposals for a publicly funded health insurance option are continually weakened.

The evolution of negotiations for a public option included in the health care reform bill are well-documented. Beginning with a robust proposal as introduced in the House—leveraging bulk purchasing power to achieve low rates—the compromise version that passed included negotiated rates, which could result in higher premiums than the average private insurance plan. On the Senate side, the bill that emerged in November allowed state legislatures to opt out of including a public option. Even with this compromise, it became clear in the last week that there weren't 60 votes to keep the public option in the bill. Majority Leader Reid asked 10 Senators to come up with a public option compromise that could survive with 60 yes votes and the result, tentatively agreed to last week, but not yet formally announced pending review by the Congressional Budget Office, does not resemble a robust public option at all; rather it allows those 55-64 years old to buy insurance through Medicare and those under 55 to buy coverage through industry plans that are supervised by the government agency that runs the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan. The public option is reportedly dead.

Hospital trade associations (Federation of American Hospitals and the American Hospital Association) and the professional association for doctors, the American Medical Association (AMA), oppose the Medicare buy-in component of the compromise proposal. The hospital associations claim that hospitals are underfunded and that they have already made enough financial concessions. AMA president J. James Rohack states that the Medicare expansion "would add millions of more patients to a program where it is difficult for a new enrollee to get an appointment with a physician."

Over the past six years, hospitals and doctors have given current House members almost $30 million in campaign contributions. Senators have received nearly $15 million.

America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the trade association for health insurance and other large insurance companies, like Blue Cross Blue Shield and Wellpoint, has attacked the public option at every step of the legislative process.

Over the past six years, health insurers and HMOs have given current House members almost $10 million in campaign contributions. Senators have received over $5 million.

MAPLight.org reported in October that the 30 Senators who have supported a public option received 57% less, on average, in campaign contributions from the health insurance industry between January 2003 and June 2009. Our September story reported that Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee who joined with Republicans to kill two public option amendments received twice as much money, on average, in campaign contributions from the health insurance industry as the Senate Democrats who voted for the public option amendments.

Campaign Contributions to Current House Members, August 13, 2003-August 12, 2009

  Hospitals & Physicians Health Insurers & HMOs Total
Total received by current House members $29,953,742 $9,553,330 $39,507,072

 

Campaign Contributions to Current Senators, August 13, 2003-August 12, 2009

  Hospitals & Physicians Health Insurers & HMOs Total
Total received by current Senators $14,486,491 $5,070,403 $19,556,894

Methodology:

Campaign contributions data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets Open Data. Date range of contributions is: August 13, 2003 - August 12, 2009. Contributions from the following special interests were included: hospitals, physicians, accident and health insurers, HMOs. Contributions to the Presidential campaigns of current House members and Senators are not included.

About MapLight: MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money's influence on politics. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.