A recent Common Cause report (Common Cause report) gives a detailed list of the money being spent by health related businesses for campaign contributions and lobbying. While the report has a bit of an alarmist tone, the sheer amounts of money expended would cause anyone to question whether the contribution recipients can use independent judgment to decide what is best for the country as a whole. Common Cause tends to have a particular political agenda and so the report focuses on contributions and lobbying by industry–meaning drug and device companies, health insurers, facilities and health professionals such as physicians. The report therefore actually underestimates total spending because unions, disease advocacy groups, foundations and others also give money and lobby on health issues and their total financial spending and impact may be as much as is spent by the health groups looked at by Common Cause.
A few numbers from the report give the overall flavor. Since 2000 health businesses have contributed about $373 million to Congressional campaigns; $94 million in 2008 alone. Health committee members received about $178 million since 2000. The money goes to both parties; with the largest amount tending to go to whichever party is in control. Since 2000 these health groups have also spent about $3 billion in lobbying. The industry is number one in total campaign contributions and lobbying expenses. Since health care is 16% of GDP, government pays over 50% of costs and health care is heavily regulated; large campaign contributions and extensive lobbying is not unexpected. But we also shouldn’t be surprised if this kind of political system generates less than ideal legislation or reforms.