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Health-Care Lobbyists vs. Real People

Our Readers Who Comment are nearly unanimous this morning in condemning the news that more than 350 former government staff members and retired members of Congress are lobbying for major health-care firms in the legislative attempts to reform the broken system.

As Dan Eggen and Kimberly Kindy write, "The aim of the lobbying blitz is simple: to minimize the damage to insurers, hospitals and other major sectors while maximizing the potential of up to 46 million uninsured Americans as new customers." In a related story, Shailagh Murray and Lori Montgomery write about the horse-trading that is inevitable if legislation is to pass and note that "While [President] Obama may be prepared to compromise, it is not clear whether the public is ready for a less-than-perfect outcome."

Based on this totally unscientific survey of comments about lobbying, the public is not ready. There are several calls for a single-payer approach, which appears to be politically dead, and a great deal of anger about the role of lobbyists working for companies readers see as ripping them off or denying them coverage. Not a happy crowd today.

We'll start with patrick3, who wrote, " 'Democracy' American style: death by a thousand lobbyists."

shadowmagician said, "...These old faces are part of the PROBLEM and should be BANNED from the discussion. Who is looking out for the taxpayer who will end up paying for the new system. Not these guys."

sashab1 wrote, "...Single-payer, universal health care is the only reform that will actually work. The insurance industry is going to water down the public option until it won't work, and they will be back in business (and we will be wringing our hands again) in a couple of years."

questquecest added, "This article spells out very well why true health care reform will not happen and instead we will get whatever watered down patchwork system will most benefit big pharma and the for-profit health insurance industry. Average people have NO voice against the billions they are spending..."

lionelroger predicted that "Obama will most certainly be a one-termer if he falls in with a corrupt Congress and does not deliver a public option Plan or single-payer universal health care... It is a monumental travesty for Congress and Federal employees to enjoy a cafeteria-style Health Benefits Plan subsidized by taxpayers but not available to all our citizens. Enough of this injustice."

abelito said, "If these big companies can afford to spend lotsa money on these expensive lobbyists, then charging their customers a lower rate should be no problem. T[h]e sin[g]lepayer option is a "must," to bring competition and su[b]sequent lower insurance and pharma costs."

But mharwick complained that "Anyone who has been to a social security office or a motor vehicle department will understand why government run health care will be the worst thing that ever happened to Americans."

To which dotellen replied, "Don't know where you are coming from, but the motor vehicle departments where I live work just fine!"

And BJeany said, "I love it when I hear someone cite the post office, the license branch and Social Service when they try to convince me of the horrors of government's fingers in health care. The post office rocks, I've used BMV/DMVs in three states and thought they ALL worked pretty well..."

jdwil wrote, "...Solutions must correct the underlying problems - inefficient distribution of services, poor quality control, and a profit driven industry dominated by self interest entrepreneurs and middlemen. Put another way, healthcare must once again refocus to efficiently deliver high quality medical and dental services..."

texanrme said, "This a war for the survival of those that have profited at the expense of the sick and elderly for generations... They want to argue how government can not handle healthcare administration, but they have proven beyond a doubt that neither can they..."

postfan1 wrote, "I'm sure Obama meant well when he decided to attack this problem. But it's a difficult problem, and there are many who have a vested interest in staying between Americans and their healthcare. It's not worth making a misstep -- it's only worth doing right. Maybe he should fix the economy first."

jimsteinberg1 said, "...I pray for President Obama to defeat the selfish conspiracy of Big Insurance, Big Pharma, Big AMA and those in Big Business who don't give a bush how many millions of Americans go without any health insurance and any medical care. I'm already tired of their new round of tv commercials about the bogeyman of Big Guvment. They don't care how many children and old and sick people die as sacrificial lambs on the altar of their laissez-faire cruelty."
Lorberrys wrote, "...After having just celebrated another "Independence Day," maybe it's about time we get serious about independence, remind those in office who put them there (not the corporate campaign contributions) and start holding them accoutable."

johallmark said, "You have to ask yourself, why is it when a lot of Americans are jobless and upwards of 47 million are without insurance, how are these Big Insurance and Big Pharma and Big Health Industry leeches able to afford lobbyists and pay them in the millions of dollars?... When will we have enough and protest this lobbying form of governing?"

pgobe observed that "After reading a lot of the posts here it seems that people are really getting fed up. I was wondering when a revolution of the people was going to start being suggested... I am afraid the only thing that is going to be effective is a '60s style taking to the streets by the citizens to let the politicians know that we are really serious. Where are the '60s radicals when we need them?..."

We'll close with protagoras, who wrote, "No wonder single payer is off the table. Shine perishing republic shine!"

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  July 6, 2009; 6:11 AM ET
 | Tags: Health-Care Reform, Lobbyists  
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Next: Health Care vs. Rationing


If anyone wants to start a petition for a constitutional amendment to allow lobbying from only flesh-and-blood real people, I'd be happy to sign it and get it signed.

Posted by: ProfElwood | July 7, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

There is no health care crisis in countries such as Canada and Great Britain. Only the British model can solve this problem and retain the choice of private pay for those who want and can afford it. Throw the rascals out! Support President Obama's plan!

Posted by: steelsil2 | July 6, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"If people think a single-payer system is the answer, they should trot their happy selves down to the local "free clinic" and try it on for size."

I think people who think a single-payer system *isn't* the answer should find out what a single-payer system *is* before they criticize it. News Flash: it's not a free clinic or a national health service.

Posted by: fzdybel | July 6, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately Americans are overlooking efficiency and don't understand the economic pitfalls to nationalized healthcare. As a Canadian I can attest that nationalized healthcare is going to be yet another blow to this country. Yet, Obama will be conidered a hero. Sad!

Interesting articles on this topic:

Posted by: jenzy | July 6, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

It is the height of arrogance for Congress to refuse to even consider a single payer system. How dare they say that a system operating successfully in other industrialized countries will not even be discussed? This is clearly capitulation to the same corporate interests that made such a mess of the existing system. Congress members were elected to represent US, weren't they? They are not doing the jobs they were elected to do and deserve to be turned out of office.

Posted by: NoFool2 | July 6, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

It is the height of arrogance for Congress to refuse to even consider a single payer system. How dare they say that a system operating successfully in other industrialized countries will not even be discussed? This is clearly capitulation to the same corporate interests that made such a mess of the existing system. Congress members were elected to represent US, weren't they? They are not doing the jobs they were elected to do and deserve to be turned out of office.

Posted by: NoFool2 | July 6, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Tort reform is mentioned is these comments. I believe it must be done. An extreme example of abuse of the tort is the case in which a jury awarded $4 billion (+, I think) to six people involved in an accident in which a GM product was seen to be the cause. The judge reduced it significantly -- but it still seighed in at some $200-250 million dollars per person.

Lobbyists. Well, I think I have a good idea, except it's dead in the water, since no politician will ever support it. My idea is two pronged: anyone leaving government service who goes to work as a lobbyist would be forbidden from lobbying Congress about anything with which he/she dealt in government, especially Congress - and prohibited from lobbying on behalf of an employer's industry if he/she goes to work for a particular firm. That's the first prong. The second is if an auto executive decides to go to work for government, whether as a civil servant or an elected official, that person should not be employed in any government agency that deals with the auto industry -- any -- and if that person gains elective office, the he or she would be barred from sitting on any committee or subcommittee with any authority involving his/her former industry. Both prongs include, of course, the war over healthcare. Put both civil and criminal sanctions in place to guard against this. And if an accused is convicted on criminal charges -- off to the pokey.

Posted by: MekhongKurt1 | July 6, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Lobbyists and special interest groups are destroying our democracy. We need to pass laws that severely restrict lobbying. There's only one problem: We need legislators to pass these laws. But legislators secretly get money and favors from lobbyists so they have no incentive to pass such laws. It's a Catch-22. Who will bell the cat?

Posted by: MortyR | July 6, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I went down to Mt. Sinai - Hospital
To see my old zaydie there
And I said, Thanks God
For the Blue Cross
And I wish we had the Medicare

Posted by: scottilla | July 6, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

If people think a single-payer system is the answer, they should trot their happy selves down to the local "free clinic" and try it on for size. If that doesn't convince them, maybe they should accompany a retired military person or someone on Medicare/Medicaid down to the clinic and see what kind of "choices" they have regarding who they see and when they get to see them. My appointment lead times are seldom less than 3 weeks to a month. With some meds it's also not a matter of name-brand or's a matter of "we don't provide that drug." Lastly, do you think your plumber would accept $40 for $85 worth of services? That's what these (already existing) government coverages offer. Not only will we wreck the country financially, we will dis-incentivise the medical profession. There's got to be a better way.

Posted by: forrestgump61 | July 6, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Alice in Wonderland has a poem where the cat, wanting to eat the mouse, holds a mock trial against the mouse. There's a line in the poem where the cat says" I'll be judge, I'll be jury, I'll try the whole case and condemn you to death". The cat is the whole medico/pharma/insurance industry that wants to be judge and jury. They decide what is an illness in the first place, then they decide who is ill, what services they might get and at what price--and all of this with a profit motive as the first condition. If insurance companies were required to be non-profit I could see a place for them. Otherwise profit and health care don't mix. See our shameful record on infant mortality, maternal mortality etc...

Posted by: monamom | July 6, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

You must work for an insurance company. If insurance works so well, why are thousands of people going bankrupt waiting for their claims to be paid? And if you make a claim your rates go up and if you are sick you might not get insurance coverage next year. It's a very profitable scam and must be stopped.

Posted by: dsul93 | July 6, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Looks like we're going to get stuck with the Wall Street Health-Care plan again. We get jacked-up rates because they have to show growth every year. And growth doesn't mean turning a killer profit, it means every years profit always has to be higher than the last. This way we never stop paying higher rates.

Posted by: HemiHead66 | July 6, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

The Democrats have now crammed through a number of bloated, ill considered bills without debate or consideration. Why make an exception for health care?

Posted by: Bubbette1 | July 6, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to Doug Feaver here, we get the inside what is really going on, and where true change is drastically needed in government. One of the biggest challenges with this latest "health care package" being discussed is similar to most previous - it excludes most holistic and natural healing practitioners from funding without the mandate of an AMA approved MD or their associates. In other words, "big pharma" with the interests of surgery, chemotherapy, and nuclear radiation treatments still get the lion's share of funding. Look who gives politicians the biggest amounts of campaign contributions, and you get the point.

Posted by: HealingNews | July 6, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Nice article and position taken by the Washington Post. I only hope that you can start the reversal process to correct this blight on America. Go POST!

Posted by: gamma64 | July 6, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Congress is not representing the people of this nation. Its failure to put single-payer healthcare on the table once again proves that.

Why are we allowing Congress to once again prove its loyalty to special interests by damning the American public to still more years of dysfunctional healthcare?

How do we intend to stop Congress and put single-payer healthcare at the forefront for reform?

Posted by: Esprit64 | July 6, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

I just wonder... americans have no problem forking over thousands of dollars every year for Car Insurance and doesn't cover anything and of course you may not even use it for years. Yet you are paying into that company without complaining at all. You don't get oil changes, new tires or anything.

However no one will fork it over to give preventative health care. We have one of the best health care systems in the world and this legislation could destroy it. Has anyone stopped to think about how poor our medicare system is and now we think that the government can do wonders for the younger population??

I think that maybe the focus should be more on the hospitals. They are the ones who have the huge markup.. not the insurance company. An insurance company actually works to protect its members. However people keep complaining about health care and say nothing about your car insurance, house insurance or life insurance because I am sure you have them all and don't think twice about putting money into that but when it comes to your health you will say hell now.

Posted by: sjernigan | July 6, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Feaver comes to an oddly different conclusion than I do when reading even the comments he has selected.

The majority of comments are in favor of a government-sponsored single-payer option, not against.

When Mr. Feaver says "the sky is yellow" when we all say the sky is blue, I wonder who he is lobbying for.

Remember, a single-payer option is not the death of private insurance. Every country (except Canada) that has a public health option also has private insurance options as well.

The US is the only country that does not have a public-health insurance option.

Posted by: perspectoff | July 6, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse


Amen to that.

Posted by: camaross340 | July 6, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse


Yet, even in the middle of a booming economy it raises prices and still loses billions a year. The United States post office is not a good example of a system that is self sustaining. Even when inflation is down the post office raises prices. If you really want to talk about failure, lets look at Social Security and Medicare. You want to see National Healthcare 10-15 years from now? Look no further. Only this time it will cost us ALL good doctors and needed treatments.

Posted by: camaross340 | July 6, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Major Health Care firms are not the problem and those that lobby for them are doing what every industry has to undertake. Unfortunately government intervention in our lives has led to a corrupt system where special interest groups and lawyers write the laws and pay the politicians to push them through. Getting the government and regulations out of our lives would do more to provide lower cost health care than the Universal Health Care plan that will undoubtedly be the out come of this BS being pushed trough the corupt system. Laws and lawyers are the major cause of the increased cost of care. Obama and the other paid politicians are not changing the cost but will only increase the cost more and provided it to more people that can't afford it. Who looses? The tax payer. And if your one of the 40% that doesn't pay taxes I guess you should be happy with yourself.

Posted by: onebythesea | July 6, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

OMG, I can't believe the WaPo would even PRINT an article like this. KUDOS, WaPo!!!!! Only the media can stand up for the little guy on this issue.

Posted by: gotoran | July 6, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

There is no doubt that all the ills of this country, and perhaps the world, can be traced to the lobbyist groups that "influence" the events inside the beltway. Unfortunately, the electorate does not have a lobby. I feel the Iranians got it right. They cherish their ability to have a say in their government and wear it on their sleeve. On the other hand, we are too busy voting for All-Star teams and watching talking heads. What will it take to change that?

Posted by: rikster7 | July 6, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I am always entertained by those who love to trash government run services and who cite the post office as an example of a govt service. Value = a first class letter from Alaska to Florida for less than 50 cents. Quality= when did you not receive your bills in the mail?

Posted by: pete980204 | July 6, 2009 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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