MONEY MEDICINE: Healthcare groups spending money to influence politicians.
By Joan Bishop | WatchdogWire.com
Medical lobbying groups have spent more than $1 million to influence politicians in Virginia.
The list of total expenditures by medical lobbyists for the period May 2013 – April 2014 includes:
- VA Hospital and Healthcare Association – $474,963
- Medical Society of Virginia – $162,858
- Humana, Inc – $128,681
- Bon Secours Health System (Virginia) – $127,350
- VA Association of Health Plans – $100,355
- Hospital Corp of America – $86,947
- Inova Health System – $69,034
The information, along with a list of the “Top Lobbying Spenders,” comes from public documents on file with the office of Secretary of the Commonwealth and compiled byThe Virginia Public Access Project. This is not money given directly to candidates, but money spent on activities.
All of this spending raises questions about the ability of lobbyists to influence legislators to the detriment of patients and their families. Those spending numbers, by the way, may not even tell the whole story, as reported last year by Watchdog.org’s Kathryn Watson as part of a look at lobbying spending:
The numbers are probably much higher than the figures lobbying groups volunteered to the secretary of the commonwealth. Virginia has loose restrictions on how much lobbying groups are required to report, and there are plenty of loopholes, as the Virginia Public Access Project, which aggregates the data, points out.
“The disclosure law provides no guidance on how to calculate lobbyist compensation, often the largest expense,” VPAP writes in its summary of the 2012-13 lobbying cycle. “Compensation ranges from providing a lobbyist’s entire salary; listing a portion of a firm’s retainer; and parsing hours to report only time engaged in lobbying based on the narrow legal definition of the word. All are acceptable, but the result is there is no apples-to-apples way to compare or rank spending.”
Though that information is from a previous year, much remains the same.