Friday, September 11, 2009

Follow the money...

by Cylinsier

I don't have much opinion to share on this topic because I think it speaks for itself, so I'll just let you have the information and you can decide. An organization called the Sunlight Foundation shares information on the influence of health care lobbying on the Senate Finance Committee. Its all nicely visualized in "maps" of the connections between Senators, former aides turned lobbyists, and the companies they work for. They focus on Max Baucus first.

In 2008, Baucus received $1,148,775 from the health sector and $285,850 from the insurance sector. For his career he has received $2,797,381 from the health sector and $1,170,313 from the insurance sector.
Following that, the Democrats of the Senate Finance Committee are examined. The money amounts are astounding. Baucus only comes in second lifetime to John Kerry. The Republicans aren't much better. On Senators Charles Grassley and Orin Hatch:

Over his career, Grassley received $1,876,479 from the health industry and $858,224 from the insurance industry. Hatch, meanwhile, pulled in $2,311,744 from the health industry and $659,307 from the insurance industry over his career.
Most of the results are compiled from investigations done by OpenSecrets offers a wealth of information about lobbying. Here's some great stats.

  • The AMA is the second highest spender in lobbying efforts at 208.5 million dollars since 1998. The Chamber of Commerce is first at 488.5. The American Hospital Association is fourth and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is sixth.
  • The top ranked sector of spending is Finance, Insurance and Real Estate at 3.7 billion dollars since 1998. Health is second at 3.5 billion. If you go year by year, Health has been number one since 2006, and spending has averaged roughly 450 million dollars each of those years.
  • The top two industries since 1998 are Pharmaceuticals (1.7 billion) and Insurance (1.3 billion). Pharma has been number one every single one of those years and Insurance has never been lower than three. For the last three years, Pharma has outspent whoever was number two by an average of 70 million.
  • Based on issues, the Federal Budget and Appropriations has the greatest number of clients at close to 40,000. Health issues is second at almost 18,000. This indicates that the per-client spending on health issues is enormously high compared to other issues. Taxes, defense and transportation are third through fifth, issues noticeably absent from the tops of the other lists.
  • The total number of clients per government agency is heavily stacked towards Congress; this includes all lobbying, not just health care lobbying. The HOR has 328 million and change in clients. The Senate has 325 and change. Third on the list is the Department of Defense at 50,000. Congress combined has 15 times the number of clients as the DOD and more clients than every other agency on the list combined.
  • The Democratic party receives marginally more than the Republican party on average from contributors, although the top two recipients of contributions that are individual members of congress are Saxby Chambliss, R-GA and John Boehner, R-OH.
  • The top ten organizational contributors include Cigna at ten with 3 million dollars, Blue Cross at eight with 3.1 and the AHA at seven with 3.7. Wal-Mart is number one with 9.4.
Again, I don't feel the need to add much to this. It speaks for itself. Sphere: Related Content


Dick Mace said...

It is amazing how long the people of this country have let this go. Thanks for the facts.

Ondinita said...

This is why we're screwed!

Moe said...

BO campaigned on a platform of change and transparency, but his dealings between the pharmaceutical industry and the administration raise serious questions as to whether the drug lobby is helping to bankroll a multimillion dollar severance package for one of the President’s senior advisors.

Several months ago, the President announced an agreement with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) to achieve $80 billion in savings as part of health care “reform.” The Congressional Budget Office has previously found that eliminating the Part D “doughnut hole”— one element of the PhRMA “deal”—would cause Medicare premiums to rise by 50 percent.

As a result of the White House agreement with the drug lobby, press reports indicate that a coalition of interest groups led by PhRMA has committed up to $150 million to generate publicity in support of the President’s health “reform.” Bloomberg News reported that one of the firms hired to spearhead the PhRMA-led advertising campaign is AKPD—the firm that Senior Advisor to the President David Axelrod founded, and where his son continues to work.

The same news story reported that Axelrod will be paid $2 million from AKPD as part of his severance package—payments which will come due beginning in December. The press reports to date raise other potentially troubling questions about the ramifications of the dealings between the pharmaceutical industry and the Administration. Has David Axelrod recused himself from the PhRMA “deal,” or will he work to defend an agreement with an industry that is directly funding his son’s work, and indirectly funding his own $2 million severance package?

Why exactly did the head of PhRMA publicly brag about negotiating a “rock-solid deal” with the Administration—and did the hiring of David Axelrod’s former firm have anything to do with his confidence? How exactly did AKPD generate this advertising contract?

As the pharmaceutical industry spends hundreds of millions supporting a government takeover of health care—one which drug companies obviously believe will increase their profits, even as it raises Medicare premiums for seniors—some may wonder whether White House senior advisors earning millions of dollars paid for in part by the pharmaceutical industry represents the kind of change Americans can believe in.

Cylinsier said...

I love the consistency. No counter-argument so change the subject. The most common tactic in the conservative debate rule book.

This is about Congress, the ones who MAKE THE LAWS, not about the executive branch. Now, if you have any comments on why an industry that pumps billions of dollars into shaping our Congress should be trusted, I'd love to hear them.

Cylinsier said...

But why am I being so rude? Sorry about that. Here's an article that directly contradicts what your unsourced comment says:

Quote: "The $80 billion pharmaceutical companies have agreed to save as part of their deal on reform with the Democrats is affordable--especially since much of it will discount drug costs in Medicare, helping to keep seniors from switching to generics."

Wesley said...

So let me get this straight... Congress is a bunch of untrustworthy schmucks that are taking bribes from lobbyests so we should let them run our health care. You did not seem so anxious to bring up donations when they came from Fannie and Freddie to your boy Barney's Frank and Chris the wife beater Dodd. This is a can of worms and not a good place to pick a fight. Both parties take these perks and donations and for all sorts of reasons. Even if you stipulate that the Rebublicans in Congress are on the payroles of the Health Insurance Companies, you still have not explained away the 54 per cent of the American People that oppose a public health care option vs, the useful idiot 40% that is for it. These people are not getting paid by Insurance Companies and their opposition is real and growing. As you would say it is the new status quo.

Ellipses said...

When the question is asked: "Are you in favor of having a public option for health insurance?" The approval rate was 70%.

When the question is asked: "Do you favor government-run health care?"

The approval rate is 40%...

It's on issues such as these that I don't understand what the point of people's opinion is... there is quantitative evidence that single payer is BETTER than what we have. It's like asking people if they are in favor of gravity... it doesn't matter, it is what it is.

Moe said...

Define "better."

You have praised France’s health care system as superior before so let me tell you what it is really like and disabuse you of that absurd notion. France's health care system is the epitome of mismanagement and riddled with opportunism. The system provides virtually free care, attracting patients from beyond the country's borders.

The majority of France's state-owned hospitals are managed in a way that is reminiscent of the old Soviet Union. For example, in the average French public hospital, it is not uncommon for every window to be open, even in winter, because the heating system for the building cannot be regulated. With the only options being no heat or unbearably high heat, everyone opts for the latter and lives with open windows. Predictably, this is not very cheap.

In France, a patient can consult with as many doctors as they wish, as often as they wish, receiving refunds for their medical expenses that are as high as 70 percent to 100 percent. Any unpaid balance is paid by the mutual companies that most employers subscribe to for their employees. A patient does not pay for his doctors, and there is no gatekeeping for doctors' visits, whether to general practitioners (GPs) or specialists.

As might be expected, under this system, there are people who consult with doctors as often as five times a week. This is especially true of older people because they have plenty of time and enjoy being able to talk about their problems with someone.

When the demand for doctor care is met by a guarantee of unlimited services, with no costs and no constraints, the result, of course, will be a boom in health care consumption, and that is what France is experiencing. There is currently a 5 percent to 8 percent increase in expenses per year in real terms, resulting in enormous deficits and even greater problems when the rate of unemployment rises.

The research and development area of pharmaceuticals has suffered from the cash-strapped health care system. Whenever a new drug arrives on the market, negotiations are made to determine the rate of refund that the health care body will accept. In comparison with other European countries, France's rate of refund for prescription drugs is very low. As a result, research and development is not funded and France's pharmaceutical industries, which ranked third in the world in 1975, have not produced a cutting-edge product within the last 20 or 25 years.

Another perverse effect of a system that promotes irresponsibility is that people abuse medicine and drugs simply because they are "free". People who visit their doctor, or multiple doctors, five times a week receive many prescriptions, which they often use together. Honest doctors would warn their patients of the dangers of mixing medicines. When two or three drugs are combined, it is difficult to predict what may happen, but when five to seven drugs are taken together, it is impossible. The only certainty is that the person's health will not be improved. In many cases, people suffer serious disorders only because they are taking too many drugs. Were they to quit taking all but the one or two drugs that were truly necessary, many of them would recover.

Finally, the system's waste of massive amounts of money and energy is having a very negative effect, not only economically but sociologically as well. Everyone is aware that the system cannot be sustained, but there is no reform. Therefore, French people tend to feel less confident and more reluctant to spend, invest, or create; they know a crisis in the health care system is inevitable.

Cylinsier said...

In direct response to each of your points:

If France's health care system is attracting people from other countries, it must be damn good. The citizens say they love it. Maybe these other countries should consider implementing their own system.

Okay, so they suck at regulating the heat. Big whoop. We'll turn it up and down in our system. That was easy.

"A patient does not pay for his doctors..." Jesus Christ, where do I sign up?

Don't old people here consult doctors whenever they feel like because they have free time? Medicare would cover most of that. If the system needs to be regulated, it will be regulated.

The US experiences about a 6.5 percent increase a year in health care coverage, about the mean of the French system if your numbers are correct. Its a push. Also, the US GDP increases about 4 percent a year. France's is only 2.1, and they're still around. These numbers suggest we're more fit to handle that strain.

That article I posted from Forbes shows not only that pharma might stand to profit from a private option but that they support it.

Implying that affordable drugs leads to drug abuse is just silly; doctors still have to write the prescriptions. This is not a money problem, its a procedural problem and it exists in our current system as well.

I don't think sociologically was the word you were looking for as it pertains to the study of human behavior and not the human behavior itself. Perhaps you mean "socially."

Everyone is aware that our system cannot be sustained either and we also have no reform. However, its a stretch to blame the state of healthcare for the lack of creativity or the aversion to risk in a society. That's grasping at straws at best and there's no evidence to suggest the two are related. To say that they know a crisis in health care is inevitable sounds like quite a spin; would they not fix the problem if they knew they had it? Oh wait, we know we have a problem and we are doing everything in our power not to fix it. I concede the final point to you in theory then.

Now that we've discussed France's system, how about discussing the systems of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Bhutan, Brunei, China, Hong Kong, India, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Pakistan, Thailand, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand? Let me know if I missed any.

Cylinsier said...

Oops, said France again. Disregard that ;)

Ellipses said...

Pointing to a shitty heater is the most retarded argument against single payer that I've ever heard. First, isn't the state of HVAC in Europe dismal, anyway? Second, just fix the fucking heater... Third, I'm sure it gets really cold for all the people in America in the winter who lose their house because they fell off a ladder while uninsured. Fourth, I work in the much vaunted "private sector" at a company with ridiculously high profit margins. Every spring, when the AC gets fired up for the first time, the whole building smells like god dropped an egg fart on our head. Obviously there is not a causal relationship between climate control and economic systems.
Fifth, did I mention that this was the dumbest thing I've heard all day? Even dumber than the water-head on Brant's blog who thinks Brian Williams is trying to take over the world via the evening news and financially strapped small-town newspapers.

Goddamnit, I am going to have to study molecular biology for a week to regain the IQ points I lost reading this shit.

Number 1 knock on socialized health care: fucked up French thermostats!

Gag me with a spoon :-)

Wesley said...

It looks like Moe made a good case that if France is attracting patients from other countries, it's damn free.