Health-care sector defecting to GOP?

Okay, but will John Boehner hand out lab coats at the press briefing?

A new portrait of the health industry landscape has begun to take shape, with some of those major players shifting their dollars from the very Democrats who passed the law they seemingly endorsed at the White House.

The insurance industry, for instance, has consistently donated more to Republicans than to Democrats ever since August 2009, when it had a falling out with the Obama administration and became the brunt of withering White House attacks.

Health professionals, bolting from the American Medical Association’s pro-reform position, have become the strongest supporters of the Tea Party Caucus, a coalition of conservative House members aligned with the movement born from a visceral rejection of the law.

Drugmakers, which invested millions in television advertising last spring and summer to promote passage of the bill, are sitting on their wallets in the run-up to the November elections.

Overall, the health sector has poured nearly $40 million into the 2010 election cycle through its many varied political action committees. A Center for Responsive Politics analysis for POLITICO reveals a marked shift from political giving to Democrats as health reform became more of a certainty — even among those who signed on as key partners in passing the overhaul.


Why now?  Except for health professionals, who bolted early over the increased government control of their practices, the rest of these groups insisted that ObamaCare represented the kind of reform that they wanted.  Insurance companies got out about the time that Nancy Pelosi called them all villains, a somewhat belated realization of the kind of people to whom they had previously hitched their wagons.

In fact, one can easily trace back the constituencies that have switched to well-known components of ObamaCare:

Physicians, pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers all became more supportive of Republican candidates as health reform became more of a certainty. Physicians, for example, have consistently backed Republican candidates more strongly since November after mostly shifting in favor of Democrats during the early months of the health reform debate.

Physicians tend to be more conservative as a group, but seeing the reimbursement schedules in ObamaCare certainly reinforced that trend.  Pharmaceuticals cut a deal with the White House on pricing, only to see Democrats rewrite it.  New taxes on their operations have them thinking twice about ObamaCare.  For medical device makers, the bill has always been a nightmare as well as an anchor on the progress of research and development.  In fact, I wrote extensively about the impact of the device tax last October and what it meant not for the manufacturers but for the patients.


Of course, one could read this as a prediction on the election results.  Lobbyists and industry groups donate to candidates as a means to curry favor as well as to support particular points of view.  It’s reasonable to guess that Republicans will be running at least one chamber of Congress the next two years, and if so, it makes sense for these groups to show their support.  I’d guess that there is a little of both at play here, but clearly Democrats are not benefiting from their ObamaCare vote as Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and their other strategists advised.

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David Strom 3:30 PM | June 20, 2024