... money, talking

July 30, 2009 

Well, it's one form of economic stimulus. Unfortunately, the main beneficiaries are lobbying firms and the Washington lawmakers who have their hands out for campaign cash.

President Obama's push for health care reform, and in particular the attempts to control drug prices and perhaps offer a government-sponsored insurance program, have the natives restless among the for-profit players in America's health care system. The News & Observer's Barbara Barrett reports that spending on lobbying efforts is up, way up. The N&O and The Charlotte Observer calculated that North Carolina companies and agencies with a dog in the health care reform fight have spent $4.8 million this year on Washington lobbying. That's a 40 percent jump over this time a year ago.

What's the money going for? Access to the members of Congress who will ultimately determine the final version of reform. The president's impassioned pleas, and his common-sense arguments for insuring everyone and guaranteeing that Americans have access to quality, affordable care -- which he emphasized again in an appearance yesterday at Broughton High School -- are up against various facets of an industry that wants to protect its bottom line.

Hospitals fear reimbursement cuts, as do doctors treating Medicare patients. Insurance and drug companies have long had a stronger hand in running health care than was, well, healthy for the average person, and they don't want to give up that control.

The "investment" in the lawmakers who will cast the votes is legal, but that makes it no more savory. "When gobs of money are going to people who are supposed to be writing the legislation, how fair is that process going to be?" said Bob Phillips with Common Cause North Carolina. Americans are counting on the president to even the odds.

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