A small but growing Democrats are lining up to oppose a major element of Obama’s deficit reduction plan—and all have received major campaign contributions to the health care industry. As I wrote last week, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) became the third and highest-profile House Democrat to support a GOP bill to repeal a Medicare panel with sweeping authority to make spending cuts to health-care providers and services.
The Medicare panel, known as the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), raised the hackles of health care industry groups that could take a hit from such cuts. Unsurprisingly, all the Democrats who want to repeal the board—including two business-friendly New Democrats and one pro-labor liberal Dem—have received major campaign contributions from the health care industry.
Health professionals were the top industry donating to Rep. Shelly Berkeley’s campaign committee in the 2010 election cycle, and they’re the second-largest industry to donate directly to her campaign since the Nevada Democrat’s election to Congress in 2000. Similarly, as Jonathan Cohn points out, health professionals are the third-largest group to donate to Schwartz, who also receives big donations from the pharmaceutical industry. Finally, Pharma was the fifth biggest donor to Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), a liberal Dem who received more than $100,000 in 2010 alone from the industry.
Unlike the Republicans who oppose IPAB, these Democrats don’t cite industry concerns in explaining their support for repeal. Rather, they stress the argument that the board—made up of 15 White House-appointed, Senate-confirmed members—goes too far in bypassing Congress. But given the strong industry opposition to the board—and Obama’s recent vow to expand its authority to include Big Pharma, which isn’t under the current purview of IPAB—there’s no question health care lobbyists are making sure that sympathetic members of Congress are hearing out their concerns.