By ROBERT WEINER and JORDAN OSSERMAN
Originally published in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel
President Obama's news conference on health care last month covered the policy issues in the battle for reform "" cost, coverage, and urgency. Unfortunately, there's a lot more to the fight.
The opposition to health reform is a tangled web of vested interests with major financial stakes in maintaining the status quo, no matter how broken it is. That's one main reason America is the only developed nation in the world that doesn't provide healthcare to its citizens.
Rick Scott, president of Conservatives for Patients Rights, is flooding the airwaves and funding disruptions of congressional town halls, warning about "government run" healthcare.
Yet Scott was ousted from his former company, for-profit hospital operator Columbia/HCA, before the company pled guilty to 14 felonies, paying the largest fraud settlement in American history "" 1.7 billion dollars. Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, said, "Rick Scott pushing health care reform is like Bernie Madoff attempting to regulate the financial industry."
According to recently published Congressional financial disclosures, 30 key lawmakers involved in health care legislation total nearly $11 million worth of personal investments in the healthcare sector.
Perhaps one of the most egregious examples because of his constant criticism of reform is Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), the Obama nominee for Commerce Secretary who withdrew because of opposition to the Administration's agenda. A senior member of the health committee, he just disclosed owning $254,000-$560,000 in stock of health care companies.
The health care industry is spending $1.4 million dollars per day to lobby against reform, and spent $126 million on lobbying in the first quarter, leading all other groups. Three of every four major health firms hire at least one lobbyist who previously worked for a congressman; 49 of the 136 lobbyists employed by PhRMA are former congressional staffers who retain cozy Hill relationships.