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Catholic Health Association spent over $1 million lobbying on health-care reform

Catholic World News - March 12, 2010

The Catholic Health Association (CHA) spent over $1 million on lobbying in 2009 as the group pushed for passage of health-care reform legislation.

The CHA, an umbrella group that represents the administrators of Catholic health-care facilities in the US, spent $875,000 on its own lobbying efforts last year. That expenditure represented a 64% increase over the previous year's in-house lobbying cost of $534,000. In both 2008 and 2009 the CHA also spent $160,000 for the services of Cornerstone Government Affairs, a Washington lobbying firm.

The CHA has steadily pushed for adoption of sweeping health-care reform legislation. This week Michael F. Rodgers, the CHA senior vice president for public policy, wrote to members of the House of Representatives urging passage of the reform legislation already approved by the Senate.

The CHA has consistently argued that the health-care reform package should not include funding for abortion. However the group has continued to press for adoption of a reform package, even the legislation under consideration-- including the Senate-approved bill-- has included abortion funding.

"I am writing to urge you to move quickly to enact health reform by passing the Senate-approved legislation in conjunction with a second 'corrections' bill providing for necessary legislative fixes that will improve the overall package," Rodgers told the House members. Among the necessary "corrections" he listed tax credits for low-income households, adjustments in Medicaid reimbursements, and drug discounts. Finally, he added: "The bill should ensure that the final, overall health reform package will provide no federal funding for abortion."

The letter from Rodgers does not make it clear that the Senate bill in its current form includes federal funding for abortion; some Democratic Party leaders have disputed that fact. Nor does Rodgers give any indication that the CHA would oppose passage of the legislation if the abortion coverage remains. His letter to House members is strongly supportive of the legislation, and the list of technical "corrections" could easily be understood to suggest that these are relatively minor considerations.

In its mandatory filings with the federal government, disclosing its lobbying activities, the CHA consistently reports that it has "advocated for maintaining current law on abortion and preserving provider conscience protections." The required filings do not provide any indication of how much effort is expended for particular pieces of legislation, but the sharp increase in CHA lobbying costs in 2009 coincides with the year-long political struggle over health-care reform.

In 2008, the CHA's heaviest spending on in-house lobbying activities came in the second quarter, when the group spent $170,000 on its political efforts. In 2009 the lowest spending for lobbying in a single quarter was a comparable figure of $165,000, for the first three months of the year. The final quarter saw lobbying expenses soar to $250,000, just as the health-care reform debate became the single dominant issue on the Washington political scene.

Concerns about the direction of the CHA lobbying effort may be heightened by the fact that Michael Rodgers heads that effort. Rodgers has shown his own personal political priorities by contributing over $2,000 to the efforts of Judy Feder, a Democratic activist who sought unsuccessfully to unseat Virginian Congressman Frank Wolf. Rep. Wolf has a 100% pro-life voting record, as judged by the National Right to Life Committee. Feder, the favored candidate of the top CHA lobbyist, supports legal abortion.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Jfran - Mar. 16, 2010 10:47 AM ET USA

    One wonders if George Soros is funding some of the CHA's lobbying efforts.

  • Posted by: Miss Cathy - Mar. 15, 2010 1:45 AM ET USA

    Yeah, where did they get the money? From the USCCB, or from government grants? They have a Bishop as a board member, is he going to resign his position because of this?

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Mar. 14, 2010 8:34 PM ET USA

    Did this group even consider the principle of subsidiarity? Why is it that for many reform means the Federal government???

  • Posted by: Thomas429 - Mar. 13, 2010 1:14 PM ET USA

    I am at a loss to understand this. The idea of government controlled health care should be frightening enough. The historical record is replete with excesses that result from that. But, can't they see what the courts will do about public funding for abortion? Not to mention missuse of funds . . .

  • Posted by: mrschips19308196 - Mar. 12, 2010 10:31 PM ET USA

    Where did they get a million dollars? I wouldreally like to know.

  • Posted by: mmbarto - Mar. 12, 2010 7:05 PM ET USA

    You have got to be kidding..!! Where are the BISHOPS in this conversation...??? It's time for our American Bishops to speak up before it's too late...or stand in judgement when they meet their maker..!

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