Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Dog Days Of Health Care Reform.

I've posted about the bulging pockets of Blue Dog Democrats from health insurance industry largesse previously, and came across this item today that further drives the point home.

As the Obama administration and Democrats wrangled over the timing, shape and cost of health care overhaul efforts during the first half of the year, more than half the $1.1 million in campaign contributions the Democratic Party's Blue Dog Coalition received came from the pharmaceutical, health care and health insurance industries, according to watchdog organizations.

The amount outstrips contributions to other congressional political action committees during the same period, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit watchdog organization. The Blue Dogs, a group of fiscally conservative lawmakers, successfully delayed the vote on health care overhaul proposals until the fall.

"The business community realizes that (the Blue Dogs) are the linchpin and will become much more so as time goes on," former Mississippi congressman turned lobbyist Mike Parker told the organization's researchers.

On average, Blue Dog Democrats net $62,650 more from the health sector than other Democrats, while hospitals and nursing homes also favor them, giving, respectively, $5,680 and $5,550 more, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit organization that tracks the influence of money in politics.

The contributions came at a time when health care and pharmaceutical companies were mounting a campaign against a government-run public health insurance option, fearing cost controls and an impact on business. The Blue Dogs' windfall also came at a time when the 52-member coalition flexed its muscle with both the White House and the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives as an increasingly influential bloc in the health care overhaul debate.

At the same time, many Blue Dogs were also rubbing shoulders with health care and insurance industry executives and their lobbyists at fundraising breakfasts and cocktail receptions that cost upward of $1,000 a plate, according to public information compiled by the nonprofit Sunlight Foundation, which advocates greater government transparency. Since 2008, more than half the Blue Dogs have either attended health care industry fundraising receptions or similar functions co-sponsored by lobbyists representing the health care and insurance industries.

In June, as Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., who heads the coalition's task force on health care, publicly expressed the Blue Dogs' misgivings about the Democratic leadership's efforts, the former pharmacy owner was feted at a series of health care industry receptions. Ross has received nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from the insurance and health care industries over his five-term career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Calls to Ross' office weren't returned.

That month, the American Medical Association, which lobbies for health care providers and is one of the top contributors to Blue Dogs, came out against a public option.

House Republicans, however, tend to collect more than Democrats — including Blue Dogs — from insurers, health professionals and the broader health sector, the Center for Responsive Politics found.

In Democratically-controlled Washington, health care reform legislation is being partially shaped by a handful of majority party members who are largely indistinguishable from Republicans and are actively fighting a public option.

Meanwhile, 14,000 more Americans lost their health care coverage today.

In other words, our best shot at robust reform to our broken health care system is going to the dogs.

BeltwayBlips: vote it up!
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