From targeting the Affordable Care Act to clamoring for COVID relief funds, annual federal healthcare lobbying expenditures have risen a staggering 70%. Nearly $714 million has been spent influencing legislation to favor the industry and maintain obscene profits. Who’s spending all this money?
It should be no surprise that this growth is driven primarily by Big Pharma, health product manufacturers, and providers. But payers and consultants are also major players in this lobbying blitz to increase their clout.
Source | JAMA Research Letter: Lobbying Expenditures in the US Health Care Sector, 2000-2020
All spending adjusted to 2020 dollars using the Consumer Price Index. Providers are defined as health professionals,
hospitals, nursing homes, and associated trade organizations; other, as health care consultants and policy organizations.
According to a JAMA Health Forum analysis based on data from Open Secrets, “Spending was highly concentrated, with the top 10% of firms responsible for 70.4% of spending among payers, 69.0% among manufacturers, and 59.0% among providers.” With such a small number of organizations responsible for the majority of spending, it’s doubtful that the needs of all constituencies are represented in Washington.
This has raised concerns about the growing influence of select groups on federal healthcare policy. Lobbyists are determined to support legislation that enables the greed and profit motives of their constituents, primarily at the public’s expense. But it’s clearly worth the cost and effort.
“Overall, the fact that the industry keeps lobbying means that this investment has some good return; otherwise, they would have stopped,” says Ge Bai, Ph.D., a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s schools of business and public health. Bai likens this to crony capitalism, and doesn’t anticipate it will change any time soon.
It’s time for brokers and employers to align themselves with a next-generation health plan that prioritizes plan sponsors and their people over profits.