One of the Most Lobbied Healthcare Bills Heads to Senate

Panoramic view of the U.S. Capitol

With over 1450 lobbyists from 400 different companies, nonprofits, and universities who pushed either for or against it, the 21st Century Cures Act is now finally heading to Senate. The House passed the measure in June 2015, but its details are still being negotiated.

It is worth noting that there were three lobbyists for every lawmaker to pass or defeat the act. The law is so important because it expands the Food and Drug Administration’s powers. Under the new law, the federal agency will be able to approve drugs and medical device at a faster pace. The bill also includes additional funding for the FDA and the National Institutes of Health.

Lobbying Costs Unclear

If the law clear Senate, the NIH will receive an extra $1.75 billion by 2021. In addition, the new act would prevent generics for rare conditions from reaching the market soon. It would also speed up the approval process within the FDA.

A CRP report shows the 21st Century Cures Act was one of the most lobbied pieces of legislation in the 114th Congress. It is also the most lobbied health bill in the last five years after Obamacare and the 2015 CHIP Reauthorization Act.

It is unclear how much the industry has spent on lobbyists because spending sheets do not go into detail for every piece of legislation. In total, interested groups spent half a billion dollars between 2015 and 2016 on lobbying activity. This included the Century Cures Act too.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton explained that such a bill would prompt interested parties to spare no effort in passing or defeating it. Hamilton believes that the Obama administration has its lobbyists well. Everyone is trying to persuade lawmakers to use a language that would best serve their interests.

“The more intense the lobbying, the more money is at stake,”

The former lawmaker concluded.

Industry’s Largest Trade Group Spent Over $24 Million

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill is very important as Obamacare’s fate remains uncertain. President-elect Donald Trump promised to undo the health care act but was silent on the Cures Act.

Prof. Tim LaPira from the James Madison University said that every bill of this significance spurs a “feeding frenzy.” The “K Street” is poised to leave nothing to chance when it comes to these bills.

Another health law that sparked such a high activity among Congress lobbyists was the 2009 Affordable Care Act. Back then, 1,200 entities lobbied for or against the measure.

The Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) was content when the law cleared the House. The group reportedly spent $24.7 million on this bill alone. It is worth noting that that was a sizable chunk of the group’s total of $30.3 million.

A spokesperson for the trade group said it appreciates Congress’ commitment to improving medical research and speeding up treatments for patients.

On the other hand, patient rights advocacy groups opposed the bill. They say that accelerating FDA’s drug approval process would result in lower quality drugs.

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