Few Health Care Groups Fully Report Donations Made to Political Entities
Companies are required by law to report direct donations to campaigns or political parties, but they are not required to reveal payments to trade associations that can lobby the government on the corporation's behalf. According to the Times, this creates "an incomplete, and at times misleading, picture of companies' efforts to influence legislation and elections."
The Times' review of the country's 75 leading health care, energy and financial services companies found that only 14 reported payments to industry trade associations in 2009. Company postings show that those 14 firms together gave more than $23.5 million for lobbying and political purposes. Data show that the remaining 61 companies did not disclose any payments.
However, that year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and seven other trade associations representing the industries collected more than $1.3 billion. Tax records show that the eight associations spent around $500 million on lobbying and other political activity such as television advertising.
Health Insurer Actions
According to the review, health insurers UnitedHealth Group and WellPoint each reported contributions to state candidates and donations from their organizations' political action committees. However, they did not reveal how much they gave to America's Health Insurance Plans, which spent more than $130 million on lobbying and other political activity in 2009.
AHIP's lobbying efforts that year included an $86 million campaign funded through the Chamber of Commerce that challenged federal health reform legislation. In addition, insurer Aetna reported its trade association payments but did not reveal how much it spent on the AHIP campaign. It described the campaign as an educational endeavor rather than a political one (Levey/Geiger, Los Angeles Times, 4/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.