Getting Their Money’s Worth

Getting Their Money's Worth

Major investments in congressional campaigns by health professionals, hospital companies, and health insurers are producing big returns in Congress.

Health professionals, hospital companies, and health insurers were major donors to members of Congress last year, contributing nearly $358 million to their campaigns; the two groups put millions more into lobbying – $435.1 million this year alone, according to an analysis of campaign finance reports by the Center for Responsive Politics.

It’s a big investment, and it’s producing a big return.

The Washington Post reports this morning that a mammoth overhaul of the nation’s medical malpractice laws, narrowly passed by the House of Representatives last month, was drafted by lobbyists for doctors and their insurers and approved by the House after only minor adjustments.

The House Judiciary Committee didn’t even hold a hearing on the legislation, which proposes strict limits on damages for some malpractice victims and limits on fees for their lawyers. The committee dispatched the bill to the House floor just four days after Rep. Steve King, R-IA, introduced it in February.

Committee members’ election and re-election campaigns collected $2.28 million from health professionals and insurance companies last year. About $29,000 of that went to Rep. King’s campaign.

“There wasn’t a dramatic change in how we wrote it,” Mike Stinson, a lobbyist for the Physician Insurers Association of America, told the Post. But, he added, “there are always some tweaks.”

There’s nothing new about lobbyists taking an active role in drafting legislation or lawmakers looking out for the interests of their campaign contributors. But the Post notes that Washington’s influence industry is becoming more aggressive about taking credit for its ability to push legislation across the finish line.

“This is a reflection of the new Trump, in-your-face era,” veteran Congress-watcher Norman Ornstein, who has written numerous books on Congress, told the Post. “The way it’s supposed to work is you meet with outside groups that would be affected by it. You hold hearings, but you write the bills.”