Health insurers spent big bucks on lobbying over the past year

America’s largest insurance companies spent millions more on lobbying last year as lawmakers debated healthcare reform, lobbying disclosure records show.

Overall, the companies increased lobbying spending by an average of 24 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to an analysis by The Hill of disclosure reports released this week. The list includes insurance giants such as Aetna and Wellpoint along with the industry’s major trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

ADVERTISEMENT
Insurers were under fire from Democrats last year for their business practices as well as their lobbying against reform legislation being considered by Congress. Furthermore, the Obama administration has often attacked insurers — who would find themselves much more heavily regulated by restrictions if the legislation passed — when pushing for a final bill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) referred to the insurance industry as “villains.”

Humana, based in Louisville, Ky., showed the biggest increase in its lobbying spending among the insurers. The company spent roughly $3.2 million on lobbying in 2009, almost 80 percent more than the $1.8 million it spent in 2008.

The largest spender among the insurance companies though was Wellpoint. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., the company spent about $4.7 million in 2009 on lobbying, 21 percent more than its K Street expenditures in 2008.

Wellpoint also hired new lobbyists in 2009, signing a contract with Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart, to work on healthcare reform legislation. According to public records, several Democratic lobbyists, such as Jonathon Jones, former chief of staff to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), and Sean Richardson, former chief of staff to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), were registered to lobby for Wellpoint.

Another big spender was UnitedHealth Group. The insurer spent roughly $4.5 million last year on lobbyists, 7 percent more than their lobbying spending in 2008.


But the individual companies’ spending on lobbyists does not match their industry association, AHIP. The trade group spent about $8.9 million on lobbyists in 2009, according to disclosure forms. That is almost 20 percent more than what the business association spent on lobbying in 2008.

In 2009, the trade group also signed up new lobbyists, such as the Glover Park Group. Duane Wright, a former aide to Democrats in the House and the Senate, is registered to lobby for the trade group, according to lobbying disclosure forms.

That actually matched spending by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association — a national federation of independent insurers — which paid lobbyists about $8.9 million last year, compared to $7.5 million in 2008.