The expensive politics of health care

How much does the health care industry spend on lobbying and campaign contributions?


Lobbying in 2017:

  • Pharmaceutical companies: $280 million
  • Hospitals/nursing homes: $100 million
  • Health professionals: $92 million
  • Insurance companies: $82 million
  • Medical supply companies: $35 million
Campaign contributions in the 2016 election cycle:
  • Health professionals (including associations, unions, and individuals): $141 million
  • Pharmaceutical companies: $63 million
  • Hospitals/nursing homes: $42 million
  • Insurance companies: $30 million
  • Medical supply companies: $9 million




How do these figures compare with other industries?


Over the past 20 years, pharmaceutical and health insurance companies were the top two industry spenders on lobbying, spending $3.9 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively. Health services/HMOs and hospitals/nursing homes were also in the top twenty, making the health care industry, which includes different interest groups and industries, one of the highest spenders for lobbying. And, the health sector is the sixth largest political contributor for both Democratic and Republican candidates.




Why is the health care industry spending so much on lobbying and campaign contributions?


Lobbying dollars and campaign contributions buy access to members of Congress and state legislators. Access means influence, in which bills get proposed, what gets discussed in committees, and which bills go to vote.




How does this impact health care costs?


Those who profit from the current market system (first championed in the 1980s, and now widely accepted by many) spend lavishly to influence legislators to write the rules in their favor. Currently, despite high health care costs, around 28 million Americans are still uninsured and about three times that number are underinsured. This happens when elected officials don’t hear or heed Americans who are hurt by high health care bills, and instead listen to those with the most dollars to spend. For more information on the health care market, see Narrative: Why markets don’t work well in health care. Updated 6/1/2018





© 2019 by Making Health Care Fair.