The State Capitol has been abuzz the last couple of days because of a hot list (PDF) circulating in the halls: campaign contributions from physicians' groups to lawmakers who are working on Gov. John Kitzhaber's plan for health-care transformation.
Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, wants to slash state health-care spending by $239 million this year, and by far more in future years.
Most of state health care dollars are spent on Medicaid, which provides health care to the poor. And two groups get most of that state Medicaid money: hospitals and managed care organizations, which are effectively doctor groups. Reducing Medicaid reimbursements for procedures and hospital stays is one of the ways Kitzhaber is seeking to cut costs.
That means there's a fight over who takes the biggest cut: hospitals or physicians' groups.
Most of the state's big hospitals are organized as non-profits, which limits their political giving.
Not so the doctor groups.
The list circulating in Salem shows that three
groups—Coalition for Healthy Oregon, Doctors for Healthy Communities and
Douglas County Physicians—have raised nearly $2.3 million since December 2009. Through Jan. 24, they had contributed $1.2 million of that sum to campaigns.
The list of money raised and contributed to elected officials is composed of public records, but it's being handed around to show the clout of the physicians' lobby, given the stakes of the health-care debate.The stakes of health-care transformation are enormous, as WW has already reported. Somebody is going to absorb those hundreds of millions—and ultimately billions—of dollars in cuts.
The list shows that doctors have given Kitzhaber $455,000 since 2009, most of it in his 2010 race against Republican Chris Dudley.
Sen. Alan Bates (D-Ashland), an osteopathic physician who serves on the Senate Health Care Committee and co-chairs the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Human Services, is the second leading recipient, having received $72,000 from the groups, the list shows.
One question that remains unanswered is to what degree doctor groups on the list are converting money collected as Medicaid payments into campaign contributions.