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Consumer Watchdog: Health Insurers & Drug Companies Contributed $5.5 Million to Top 10 Senate and House Recipients Since 2005

WASHINGTON, March 09, 2009 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Health insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers contributed $5.5 million to the top 10 recipients in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives during the last two election cycles - a period in which health care reform dominated political discourse, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog.

Health insurers contributed $2.2 million to the top 10 members of the U.S. Senate and House. Drug manufacturers contributed $3.3 million to the top 10 recipients in each legislative body. In all, health insurers and drug manufacturers contributed $24,220,976 to the current members of Congress in the last two election cycles.

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who has become the leading architect of health care reform in Congress, received more campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries than any other current Democratic member of the House or Senate. Senator Baucus received $183,750 from health insurance companies and $229,020 from drug companies.

At last week's White House summit on health reform on March 5, Senator Baucus said that the insurance companies and drug companies had told him they would help drive a solution.

Baucus's own plan would require every American to show proof of insurance, with those who do not receive coverage from an employer or are not in Medicaid or Medicare forced to buy a private health insurance policy. Failure to show proof of insurance would result in tax fines. This is the insurance industry's favored policy.

"When the engineer of the health care reform train is getting more fuel from the HMOs and drug companies that any other Democrat on Capitol Hill, you have to wonder who is really driving the train and whether average Americans will be tied to the tracks," said Carmen Balber, Director of Consumer Watchdog's Washington D.C. office. "HMO and drug company money will sour the President's plan for affordable, accessible health care if these industries' backers on Capitol Hill allow their financial interests to drive the debate."

Consumer Watchdog's analysis ranks industry contributions to members of the 111th Congress in the House and Senate. Totals for former Senators Clinton and Biden and President Obama are not included in the rankings. In 2007 and 2008, President Obama raised $928,316 in contributions from individuals employed by the health insurance industry, and $1,068,200 from those employed by the prescription drug industry. However, President Obama did not raise any of this money from industry PACs (political action committees).



         Top 10 Senate Recipients of          Top 10 House Recipients of
            Health Insurer Money                 Health Insurer Money

    Senator                    Amount   Representative                Amount
    McCain, John (R-AZ)       $251,834  Cantor, Eric (R-VA)          $113,850
    McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)   $200,200  Camp, Dave (R-MI)            $112,923
    Baucus, Max (D-MT)        $183,750  Pomeroy, Earl (D-ND)         $104,500
    Lieberman, Joe (I-CT)     $101,400  Boehner, John (R-OH)         $101,200
    Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA)    $98,600  Deal, Nathan (R-GA)          $100,000
    Collins, Susan (R-ME)      $96,500  Towns, Edolphus (D-NY)        $87,750
    Kyl, Jon (R-AZ)            $90,450  Rogers, Mike (R-AL)           $74,000
    Warner, Mark (D-VA)        $89,700  Blunt, Roy (R-MO)             $72,800
    Hatch, Orrin (R-UT)        $85,903  Ryan, Paul (R-WI)             $69,000
    Nelson, Ben (D-NE)         $83,300  Tanner, John (D-TN)           $68,500


         Top 10 Senate Recipients of          Top 10 House Recipients of
               Drug Co. Money                       Drug Co. Money

    Senator                    Amount   Representative                Amount
    McCain, John (R-AZ)       $294,603  Barton, Joe (R-TX)           $187,100
    Baucus, Max (D-MT)        $229,020  Dingell, John (D-MI)         $180,300
    McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)   $225,200  Boehner, John (R-OH)         $156,125
    Lieberman, Joe (I-CT)     $196,540  Frelinghuysen, Rodney (D-NJ) $152,850
    Hatch, Orrin (R-UT)       $186,900  Clyburn, James (D-SC)        $145,514
    Spectre, Arlen (R-PA)     $179,650  Buyer, Steve (R-IN)          $141,350
    Mendez, Robert (D-NJ)     $147,243  Cantor, Eric (R-VA)          $135,600
    Enzi, Mike (R-WY)         $134,500  Rogers, Mike (R-AL)          $133,946
    Kyl, Jon (R-AZ)           $118,350  Blunt, Roy (R-MO)            $133,500
    Cornyn, John (R-TX)       $115,900  Gerlach, Jim (R-PA)          $131,660

Download the full analysis:

The two issues of health insurance reform currently under debate on Capitol Hill that most directly impact health insurance companies are the so-called "public option" to join Medicare and the mandatory purchase of health insurance. As a candidate, President Obama promised to provide a "public" health care option to any American as an alternative to private health insurers. At times, Obama has discussed "the public option" as though it would be a stand-alone plan like Medicare, which directly pays doctors and hospitals. The option to join Medicare, regardless of age, would be beneficial to Americans because by almost every measure, Medicare is cheaper and more effective than private plans, according to government and academic research. For example, Medicare spends 2% of revenue on overhead; private insurers typically spend 25% to 27% for overhead and profit. Health insurers heavily oppose giving Americans of any age access to Medicare.

Insurers, on the other hand, support a plan to require all Americans to buy private health insurance policies. Under this model, the government would not regulate what insurers could charge for a policy or guarantee minimum benefits.

Read Consumer Watchdog's letter to the U.S. Senate describing the benefits of a "public option" giving universal access to Medicare and the pitfalls of the individual mandate: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org/resources/SenateLetter.pdf

Central to the health reform debate for drug companies is whether Medicare will be allowed to negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs. Currently the program is barred from doing so. President Obama has pledged to allow Medicare to bulk purchase, which would require Congress to pass a new law. Drug companies strongly oppose such a change.

A national poll in December 2008 conducted by the marketing survey company CARAVAN for Consumer Watchdog found that only 16% of U.S. voters support, and 53% oppose, requiring every American to provide proof of private health insurance or face tax penalties or other fines. Read about the poll at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/patients/articles/?storyId=24110

A second opinion research poll for Consumer Watchdog in January 2009 found that, by contrast, 65% support giving every American of any age the option of joining Medicare, and 60% are willing to pay more in payroll deductions for this option. Read about the poll at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/patients/articles/?storyId=24826

CONTACT: Carmen Balber, +1-202-629-3043, or Jerry Flanagan,+1-310-889-4912, both for Consumer Watchdog

Web site: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/

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Posted: March 2009


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