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In the third quarter of that year, as the Democratic leaders of Congress struggled to decide what to keep and what to cut in President Biden’s reconciliation package, Senate Democratic chairman Chuck Schumer accepted a bundle of US $ 66,000 campaign donations Dollar from the head of health insurance industry’s leading lobby group.
The wad of checks collected by Matt Eyles, the president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and given to Schumer’s campaign, was made public in a lobbyist bundling report for July through September that Schumer filed with the federal electoral commission . The report does not specify the exact date on which Eyles turned over the bundled donations to Schumer.
A review of FEC filings reveals that Eyle’s Q3 package is the first time he or another AHIP lobbyist has pooled donations for Schumer. It was the largest bundle that Schumer has received overall since 2016. Campaigns must disclose pooled donations if they are physically or electronically directed to them by lobbyists or PACs established by lobbyists.
The Eyles organization is the largest lobbying group in the health insurance industry, with annual spending of around $ 60 million a year. In the third quarter of this year, AHIP revealed lobbying the Senate and House of Representatives on the Build Back Better Act and other topics that were part of discussions around the bill. Its members include Cigna, Aetna and Humana.
One of the group’s goals for the Build Back Better Act was to block a White House proposal from Biden to add dental, visual, and hearing benefits to Medicare. Most Medicare Advantage plans, such as those offered by Cigna and Aetna, include dental, hearing and vision benefits, so adding this coverage to traditional Medicare would slap insurance companies’ competitive advantage over the government . Politico said the insurance companies were “freaked out” over Biden’s proposal for dental, vision and hearing insurance through Medicare, but mostly kept it behind the scenes as it would look bad to be viewed as the opposite of better health insurance for seniors.
The scaled-down version of the bill, which emerged from negotiations by the Democratic leaders and was presented to the House of Commons, does not include dental or visual aids for Medicare patients. Of the three areas of health insurance that the insurance industry tried to kill, only hearing has survived.
Dental and visual aids could be put back into the bill in the Senate – and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Said on Twitter that they will be included in the Senate version – but Senator Joe Manchin (DW.V.), one critical swing vote says he is against the coverages because he is concerned about the program’s solvency.
According to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 47 percent of Medicare beneficiaries had no dental care in 2019. Without routine dental care, oral health issues are often neglected until patients are in extreme pain and are forced to pay for expensive out-of-pocket treatments. In some cases, oral health problems can lead to fatal infections in seniors, while in many cases they have to take antibiotics that damage their gut microbiome and thus weaken their immune systems.
When asked for comment on the AHIP lobbyist’s $ 66,000 donation package, a Schumer spokesman told Sludge that the Senator “is one of the Senate’s greatest supporters of Medicare expansion and has done everything in its power to to pass the toughest laws “.
In addition to the AHIP bundle, Schumer’s campaign received many other donations from health insurers in the third quarter. AHIP’s PAC gave him the legal maximum of $ 5,000 on September 30, and the health insurance fund donations that appear in its quarterly disclosure include those from PACs made with Humana ($ 5,000), Cigna (US $ 1,500) Affiliated with $ 5,000), Molina Healthcare ($ 5,000), and MVP Health Care ($ 2,500), and more. Many other insurance managers also donated to the Senator, including $ 20,300 from UnitedHealth Group executives such as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer John Rex and Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy Catherine Anderson.
Also included in Schumer’s third quarter lobbyist bundling report are bundles of $ 37,200 from the PAC of the American Health Care Association, a nursing home group, and $ 46,200 from the American Council of Life Insurers PAC, a trade association whose hundreds of member firms 95 % of industry represent assets. Schumer is standing for re-election in 2022.
The Build Back Better Act was passed by the House of Representatives on November 19th and passed to the Senate, where it can be voted on under the rules of budget balancing, which do not allow its opponents to filibus. The bill is likely to face further cuts to meet the wishes of conservative Democratic senators, whose votes are needed in the 50-50 split Senate. If the bill is amended and then passed, it will be sent back to the House for further voting.
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