Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Will Lucky #7 Get Out of Race before Investigation?

Dear President Bush,

The Congressional Power Rankings just came out. Guess who is the 7th most powerful person in the House of Representatives? It is House Ways & Means Chair, Bill Thomas! Yes, that is the same Bill Thomas that accepted numerous donations from for profit health care companies in his term in office. Last summer he held hearings on the unfair advantage non profit hospitals have by not paying taxes. This after accepting $30,000 in donations from two groups with a long history of concern about that “unfair advantage”.

The 4th most powerful Senator, Chuck Grassley raised that very issue at the same time as his power punching cohort. Contribution records show both in the pocket of for profit healthcare. The Federation of American Hospitals serves as the for profit hospital lobbying voice on Capital Hill. The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways & Means Committee make crucial decisions on health care policy and funding. What does it mean when the chair of each major committee takes up your pet issue? Bill Thomas and Chuck Grassley did that very thing last summer.

How has the Federation donated to members of those two influential committees? In the current 2006 campaign cycle over 57% of their $165,000 in donations is targeted to those members. This number will grow as the election campaign continues. Historically the FAH contributes about $400,000 per election cycle.

In the 2004 campaign over $155,000 came from HCA executives alone. Senator Bill Frist’s family started the company years ago. The Senate Majority Leader is under investigation for his handling of HCA stock. He happens to have the #1 power rating in the Senate.

Twelve of the twenty members of the Senate Finance Committee are funded by the Federation while 31 of the 41 members of the House Ways & Means Committee receive for profit health care donations. How do you think they will vote on issues important to the Federation?

I found a few other things strange in this mess. The way Republicans talk about taxes being bad, shouldn’t non profit hospitals be given medals for not paying them? Also, nowhere did Congress mention their abdication of responsibility to address the growing legions of uninsured Americans. This burden is historically borne by non-profit safety net providers.

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