Health industry gave millions to state officials involved in lawsuit

State Medical Groups Want Federal Health Reform Law Overturned

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The state officials who joined together to file a lawsuit challenging federal health care reform have collectively received at least $5 million in campaign contributions from the health industry over the course of their political careers, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

Using data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the Center found that top recipients of industry money include Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has received more than $1 million from health care professionals since 1996, and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who took in at least $970,163 from the industry starting in 1992, when he was a state senator, until he left the governor’s office this week. Other major recipients involved in the lawsuit include former Pennsylvania Attorney General and newly-elected Governor Tom Corbett, who has received about $830,000, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, with more than $770,000.

The money has flowed from a variety of interests ranging from hospitals and drug companies to health care insurers and doctors. Many oppose the mandate in the new law requiring Americans to buy health care coverage.

While the American Medical Association ultimately supported the bill, various state affiliates, including those in both Texas and Georgia, broke ranks with the national organization and came out against the law. Conservative doctors within the AMA have also pushed to rescind the group’s support of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance.

Abbott and Perdue are among the governors and attorneys general in 20 states who filed the lawsuit in a Florida federal court on March 23, 2010, immediately after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The suit challenges the individual mandate for health care coverage, as well as the expansion of Medicaid that the suit claims will strain already burdened state budgets.

The opening arguments of the Florida case — which took place in December — came on the heels of a victory for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who last month won his own case against the federal mandate. That decision has now been appealed by the Justice Department, and is headed for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. Cuccinelli, who has been the state’s attorney general since January 2010, has received almost $69,000 from the health industry since 2003.

State leaders voiced opposition to the new law immediately upon its passing last March. Twelve of the officials involved in the Florida lawsuit ran for office in 2010. During the 2010 election cycle, health care interests — various sorts of health care professionals, hospitals and health care facilities, and pharmaceutical companies — gave at least $1.7 million to those candidates.

Some in the Florida Medical Association accused the AMA of “failing to lead and represent America’s physicians and the American people on the signature medical legislative issue of this century” and considered splitting from the national organization entirely. Instead, the FMA pledged its support of Attorney General Bill McCollum, who led the charge in the multi-state lawsuit, in his 2010 gubernatorial primary campaign.

McCollum told the Center that the federal government simply had no authority under the Constitution to enact the law, especially in requiring people to buy health insurance. “Every state is negatively affected by this law,” McCollum said. Referring to some Democratic state Attorneys General who have not joined the suit, he said they “may be leery of joining the lawsuit for partisan reasons, but they know it’s the right thing to do.”

McCollum is also wary of the new eligibility requirements for Medicaid, which would mean an additional millions of enrollees at an eventual cost of billions to the states; the federal government will pick up the additional Medicaid costs through 2016. In a state like Florida, where there is already a shortage of doctors and nurses, he said “the cost is staggering,” he said.

McCollum, who has called the law “public policy at its worst, in violation of the U.S. Constitution,” received about $340,000 from the industry, mostly health professionals, during his 2010 gubernatorial bid. McCollum, who served as Florida’s attorney general from 2007 until earlier this month, lost the primary to now-Governor Rick Scott. Pam Bondi, who succeeded McCollum as attorney general and will take up his cause in the lawsuit, received about $75,000 from the industry, some $64,000 of which came from health professionals. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece this month, she said “our lawsuit, together with a similar lawsuit filed by Virginia's attorney general, has exposed the health-care law's threat to individual liberty and to the constitutional structure that the Founders designed as a means of protecting that liberty.” The FMA endorsed Bondi as well.

Corbett, who served as Pennsylvania’s attorney general for six years before being elected governor this past November, received more than $650,000 from health interests during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Top donors include the state’s affiliate of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one of 23 surgical organizations that opposed the legislation, the physician-owned Surgical Institute of Reading, and Dr. John Templeton Jr., a wealthy philanthropist and one of the most influential Republicans in the state.

Abbott, first elected Texas attorney general in 2002, received at least $271,350 from the industry during the 2010 campaign. Donations include $50,000 from Border Health PAC, the political action committee for the Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, one the largest physician-owned hospitals in the country. Physician-owned facilities would gain little from the health reform legislation, according to the trade group Physicians Hospitals of America, as it bans the creation of new facilities and stifles the expansion of those currently operating. The Texas Medical Association maintained that it could not support the bill, as a survey of its members found that almost 70 percent believed it would make the health care system worse.

South Carolina’s Henry McMaster, attorney general since 2003, received about $173,000 in donations from health interests, mostly professionals in the industry, during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. He lost in the primary. The South Carolina Medical Association did not support the bill.

Former Attorney General Troy King of Alabama received at least $132,227 from the industry in 2010, including $74,000 from Home Care PAC, associated with the Home Care Association of Alabama. King, the state’s attorney general since 2004, lost in the primary, but his successor, Luther Strange III, applauded the ruling against the individual mandate in Cuccinelli’s case. Strange received at least $132,000 from health interests, including $20,000 from ALAPAC, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama’s political action committee. The association opposed the bill.

The state attorneys general and governors who filed suit in the Florida case are: Bill McCollum, then-attorney general of Florida; Henry McMaster, attorney general of South Carolina; Jon Bruning, attorney general of Nebraska; Greg Abbott, attorney general of Texas; Mark L. Shurtleff, attorney general of Utah; Troy King, then-attorney general of Alabama; James D. “Buddy” Caldwell, attorney general of Louisiana; Michael A. Cox, then-attorney general of Michigan; John W. Suthers, attorney general of Colorado; Thomas W. Corbett, attorney general of Pennsylvania; Robert McKenna, attorney general of Washington; Lawrence G. Wasden, attorney general of Idaho; Marty J. Jackley, attorney general of South Dakota; Gregory F. Zoeller, attorney general of Indiana; Wayne Stenehjem, attorney general of North Dakota; Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi; Janice K. Brewer, governor of Arizona; Jim Gibbons, then-governor of Nevada; Sonny Perdue, then-governor of Georgia; and Daniel S. Sullivan, then-attorney general of Alaska.

Alaska’s attorney general is appointed, not elected; therefore, Alaska’s campaign contributions were not analyzed for this story.

Kimberly Leonard contributed to this report.

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