I guess that’s because the whole state of Arkansas must already have health care as good as Lincoln’s, so no worries. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a member of the Senate Finance Committee and one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2010 election. Lincoln jumped into the news today with a quote to a reporter stating her opposition to a public option plan in a health care reform bill. “I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can’t afford that,” Lincoln said. The senior Arkansas senator is also the top recipient of campaign contributions from the health industry among senators this year.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Lincoln has received $325,350 in contributions from the health industry, as of June 30. The large amount in contributions underlies a constantly shifting position by the senator on health care reform.
One of Lincoln’s biggest contributors this cycle is the insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield. The company’s political action committee and employees have combined to give the senator $29,500 this year alone. Blue Cross Blue Shield and their parent company Wellpoint are vocal opponents of the inclusion of a public option plan in any health care reform bill. Blue Cross Blue Shield is the dominant insurer in Arkansas holding a 75 percent market share.
Blue Cross Blue Shield does not need to only rely on campaign contributions to reach Sen. Lincoln, as they retain Lincoln’s former top health care policy adviser as a lobbyist. Elizabeth Barnett worked for Lincoln from 2000 to 2007 before leaving to become the top Democratic lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield. Earlier this year, Barnett left Blue Cross to work for Avenue Solutions, where she retains Blue Cross Blue Shield as a client. Avenue Solutions’ profile of Barnett notes that she “had primary responsibility for representing [Blue Cross Blue Shield] and its 39 member plans before the Senate Finance Committee, Senate Democratic Leadership, and other key Senate committees and offices.” Barnett also represents other health industry organizations including UnitedHealth Group, Aetna, Bravo Health, Healthcare Leadership Council, Medco and the National Health Policy Group.
Barnett is not the only former Lincoln staffer working as a lobbyist for the health industry. Lincoln’s former chief of staff Kelly Bingel is a lobbyist specializing in health care at Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc, the lobbying firm of Sen. Max Baucus’ former chief of staff David Castagnetti. Bingel represents a who’s who of the health care industry including America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and Pharmaceutical Researchers & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). AHIP and PhRMA have been largely supportive of health care reform this year. PhRMA, in particular, has supported the current legislation with positive advertising after receiving concessions from the White House and the Senate Finance Committee. Bingel also represents the Business Roundtable, a group that has voiced opposition to health care reform.
So, there ya have it. Don’t ya feel better Arkansas knowing that Blanche is on your side? She’s working hard for Blue Cross Blue Sheild, I mean uh for you. I for one will sleep much better tonight that Blanche is on the case in D.C. and working hard for all Americans so they may know the same pleasure that comes from having health insurance when you’re sick that Ms. Blanche Lincoln has.
Maybe we should send her a thank you note for all her hard work.