- The health sector’s spending on federal lobbying rose 70% from 2000 to 2020, driven mostly by pharmaceutical and health product manufacturers and providers, according to new research.
- U.S. healthcare lobbying expenditures totaled almost $714 million in 2020, compared to $358.2 million in 2000, the study published in JAMA Health Forum found.
- Lobbying activities are highly concentrated, with a small number of firms responsible for the majority of spending. That could mean some constituencies are underrepresented in federal policymaking, researchers said.
Healthcare lobbying has drawn intense scrutiny and ignited worries that select groups may be wielding outsized influence on policymaking, as hospitals, insurers, drug manufacturers and devicemakers hustle to represent their interests in Washington.
The new study analyzed data from OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics, to quantify the scope of that influence. It found that in 2020, pharmaceutical and health product manufacturers spent the most on lobbying activities, at $308 million. They were followed by providers at $287 million, and payers at $81 million.
Spending was extremely concentrated. The top 10% of firms are responsible for 70% of spending among payers, 69% among manufacturers and 59% among providers, the study found.
Researchers also found lobbying expenditures grew faster in the early 2000s relative to more recent years, in part due to efforts targeting the Affordable Care Act.
Researchers noted their analysis was based on mandated federal reporting thresholds, so the expenditures may not represent the total amount healthcare interests spent on lobbying, and do not include all spending tied to lobbying efforts at the state level.
But drugmakers and providers have been in the top-five of overall lobbying spenders for decades, according to OpenSecrets.
In the third quarter alone, 102 healthcare companies and associations spent $330,000 or more, according to a Politico analysis of lobbying filings in October.
Of the 102 groups, 33 represented the pharmaceutical industry. Of those, drugmaker lobbies, PhRMA spent the most, shelling out almost $7.3 million in the quarter.