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Senator Max Baucus, Leading Architect of Health Care Reform, Received More Industry Contributions Than Any Other Democrat

WASHINGTON D.C. -- Health insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers contributed $5.5 million to the top 10 recipients in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives during the last two election cycles - a period in which health care reform dominated political discourse, according to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog.

Health insurers contributed $2.2 million to the top 10 members of the U.S. Senate and House. Drug manufacturers contributed $3.3 million to the top 10 recipients in each legislative body. In all, health insurers and drug manufacturers contributed $24,220,976 to the current members of Congress in the last two election cycles.

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who has become the leading architect of health care reform in Congress, received more campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries than any other current Democratic member of the House or Senate. Senator Baucus received $183,750 from health insurance companies and $229,020 from drug companies.

At last week's White House summit on health reform on March 5, Senator Baucus said that the insurance companies and drug companies had told him they would help drive a solution.

Baucus's own plan would require every American to show proof of insurance, with those who do not receive coverage from an employer or are not in Medicaid or Medicare forced to buy a private health insurance policy. Failure to show proof of insurance would result in tax fines. This is the insurance industry's favored policy.

"When the engineer of the health care reform train is getting more fuel from the HMOs and drug companies that any other Democrat on Capitol Hill, you have to wonder who is really driving the train and whether average Americans will be tied to the tracks," said Carmen Balber, Director of Consumer Watchdog's Washington D.C. office. "HMO and drug company money will sour the President's plan for affordable, accessible health care if these industries' backers on Capitol Hill allow their financial interests to drive the debate."

Consumer Watchdog's analysis ranks industry contributions to members of the 111th Congress in the House and Senate. Totals for former Senators Clinton and Biden and President Obama are not included in the rankings. In 2007 and 2008, President Obama raised $928,316 in contributions from individuals employed by the health insurance industry, and $1,068,200 from those employed by the prescription drug industry. However, President Obama did not raise any of this money from industry PACs (political action committees).

       Top 10 Senate Recipients of          Top 10 House Recipients of
          Health Insurer Money                 Health Insurer Money

  Senator                    Amount                 Representative                Amount
  McCain, John (R-AZ)       $251,834         Cantor, Eric (R-VA)          $113,850
  McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)   $200,200        Camp, Dave (R-MI)            $112,923
  Baucus, Max (D-MT)        $183,750        Pomeroy, Earl (D-ND)         $104,500
  Lieberman, Joe (I-CT)     $101,400        Boehner, John (R-OH)         $101,200
  Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA)    $98,600       Deal, Nathan (R-GA)          $100,000
  Collins, Susan (R-ME)      $96,500          Towns, Edolphus (D-NY)        $87,750
  Kyl, Jon (R-AZ)            $90,450              Rogers, Mike (R-AL)           $74,000
  Warner, Mark (D-VA)        $89,700          Blunt, Roy (R-MO)             $72,800
  Hatch, Orrin (R-UT)        $85,903            Ryan, Paul (R-WI)             $69,000
  Nelson, Ben (D-NE)         $83,300           Tanner, John (D-TN)           $68,500

       Top 10 Senate Recipients of          Top 10 House Recipients of
             Drug Co. Money                       Drug Co. Money

  Senator                    Amount               Representative                Amount
  McCain, John (R-AZ)       $294,603       Barton, Joe (R-TX)           $187,100
  Baucus, Max (D-MT)        $229,020      Dingell, John (D-MI)         $180,300
  McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)   $225,200     Boehner, John (R-OH)         $156,125
  Lieberman, Joe (I-CT)     $196,540      Frelinghuysen, Rodney (D-NJ) $152,850
  Hatch, Orrin (R-UT)       $186,900        Clyburn, James (D-SC)        $145,514
  Spectre, Arlen (R-PA)     $179,650       Buyer, Steve (R-IN)          $141,350
  Mendez, Robert (D-NJ)     $147,243     Cantor, Eric (R-VA)          $135,600
  Enzi, Mike (R-WY)         $134,500        Rogers, Mike (R-AL)          $133,946
  Kyl, Jon (R-AZ)           $118,350          Blunt, Roy (R-MO)            $133,500
  Cornyn, John (R-TX)       $115,900       Gerlach, Jim (R-PA)          $131,660

Download the full analysis:

-- Contribution Summary - This spreadsheet allows the user to rank members of the House and Senate by the level of contributions they received from each industry.
Click here to view.

-- Contribution Pivot Table - This spreadsheet allows the user to sort the data by recipient, donor, party, house, and state. Click here to view.

Health Insurance Reform

The two issues of health insurance reform currently under debate on Capitol Hill that most directly impact health insurance companies are the so-called "public option" to join Medicare and the mandatory purchase of health insurance. As a candidate, President Obama promised to provide a "public" health care option to any American as an alternative to private health insurers. At times, Obama has discussed "the public option" as though it would be a stand-alone plan like Medicare, which directly pays doctors and hospitals. The option to join Medicare, regardless of age, would be beneficial to Americans because by almost every measure, Medicare is cheaper and more effective than private plans, according to government and academic research. For example, Medicare spends 2% of revenue on overhead; private insurers typically spend 25% to 27% for overhead and profit. Health insurers heavily oppose giving Americans of any age access to Medicare.

Insurers, on the other hand, support a plan to require all Americans to buy private health insurance policies. Under this model, the government would not regulate what insurers could charge for a policy or guarantee minimum benefits.

Read Consumer Watchdog's letter to the U.S. Senate describing the benefits of a "public option" giving universal access to Medicare and the pitfalls of the individual mandate.

Prescription Drug Reform

Central to the health reform debate for drug companies is whether Medicare will be allowed to negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs. Currently the program is barred from doing so. President Obama has pledged to allow Medicare to bulk purchase, which would require Congress to pass a new law. Drug companies strongly oppose such a change.

Polls

A national poll in December 2008 conducted by the marketing survey company CARAVAN for Consumer Watchdog found that only 16% of U.S. voters support, and 53% oppose, requiring every American to provide proof of private health insurance or face tax penalties or other fines. Read about the poll here.

A second opinion research poll for Consumer Watchdog in January 2009 found that, by contrast, 65% support giving every American of any age the option of joining Medicare, and 60% are willing to pay more in payroll deductions for this option. Read about the poll here.

The Center for Responsive Politics compiled federal campaign contribution data from the Federal Elections Commission for use in this analysis.