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The $660 Million Hurdle to Single-Payer Health Care

While a majority of the public, and an increasing number of politicians, support a Medicare-for-All health care system, any serious proposal will face major hurdles due to the lobbying power of insurers, big pharma and other industries that are deeply invested in the status quo. Three-fourths of lobbyists on health care issues in 2017 were from the pharmaceuticals, insurance or hospital industries, which will likely oppose single-payer health care.

That’s what our newly published report, “The $660 Million Hurdle,” shows.

Organizations from health care-related industries spent $660 million on at least 3,335 lobbyists in 2017, with more than 75 percent of the lobbyists deployed from the pharmaceuticals/health products; health services/HMOs or insurance; or hospitals/nursing homes industries. As the Medicare-for-All debate continues to heat up, private insurers likely will view single-payer as an existential threat to their businesses. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical and hospital industries are also likely to resist a system that would hinder their ability to charge far more for their services in the U.S. than elsewhere in the world.

As a result, congressional lawmakers must eventually choose whether to side with Americans, or with special interests.

Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, the trade association of the brand-name pharmaceutical industry, was tops among organizations analyzed in lobbying spending in 2017, spending almost $26 million in that year. Among individual companies, Blue Cross Blue Shield spent $24 million on lobbying in 2017, the highest of any health insurer, and second highest among all organizations covered in the report. The American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association both shelled out about $22 million on lobbying in that same year.

The report comes as Medicare-for-All gains steam and popularity among American voters. An August 2018 poll by Reuters and Ipsos found that a majority of Democrats (85 percent) and Republicans (52 percent) support such a policy. Many other polls in recent years have found majority support for single-payer Medicare-for-All.

Increasingly, the public and our elected officials have started to view single-payer as the best solution to our unjust, inhumane health care system. Advocates for single-payer should not underestimate industry’s inevitable attempts to deceive the public in order to preserve the status quo.

Read the .pdf of the report here


Photo credit: Flickr user Images Money (Healthcare Costs)

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