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Kiss And Make Up

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I know that a lot of you don’t read The New York Times, so I feel it is incumbent on me to pass along choice tidbits of interest to the industry from the world’s greatest newspaper when they come along.

And a dilly of a tidbit did come along in the July 12 Times. True, the story was below the fold, but it still made the front page. The headline read, “Once an Enemy, Health Industry Warms to Clinton.”

That’s Clinton as in Hillary, former first lady and now junior senator from New York. The same Clinton who was vilified for her massive, secret and unworkable plan for reorganizing the health care/insurance system way back early in Bill’s first term. The very Clinton who begot those legendary dragon-slayers Harry and Louise (and you thought she had only begot Chelsea!).

It’s no secret that Hillary has been a massive fund-raiser, both for herself and others in the Democratic party. In fact, nobody else in the party comes close except Bill Clinton himself. But what the Times story revealed is how much financial support Hillary has garnered from what is broadly called the health care industry and which includes insurers, drug companies, hospitals and doctors.

In the 2005-6 period, according to the Times, Hillary has gotten contributions from the health care industry that total $854,462. This is second on Capitol Hill only to Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., No. 3 in the Republican leadership, who took in $977,354, according to the Times.

In fact, the only other Democrat in the top 10 in terms of contributions from the health care business is that old b?te noire of the business, none other than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who comes in sixth in the ranking.

Now, isn’t this a turn of events that even today seems highly unlikely and at one point in the early 90s would have seemed utterly inconceivable? But then it would have been hard to believe that Hillary would end up running for the Senate.

There are many reasons for this recent development as detailed in the Times article. For one, listen to Chip Kahn, who was high in the hierarchy of the then-Health Insurance Association of America back when the battles over ‘Hillary-care’ were raging and is now president of the Federation of American Hospitals. Kahn told the Times that those battles were “ancient history” now. He also said that the reason Hillary was getting contributions from the industry was that “she is extremely knowledgeable about health care and has become a Congressional leader on the issue.”

Indeed, she has sponsored or pushed a number of bills that have found favor with the industry or are high on its wish list.

Then, of course, there is the fact (shown by most polls) that at this point she is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. The health care business–among the savviest of the heavy-hitting lobbies on the Hill–certainly recognizes this and is indulging in a certain amount of bet-hedging.

But even if she doesn’t run in 2008 for some reason, she’ll still be a force in the Senate since by all accounts her re-election this year is all but a shoo-in.

Yes, I know that some of you will be thinking that politics makes strange bedfellows. And that money talks. But I think you’d have to admit that even taking these things into account, there have been few instances more unlikely than the kiss-and-make-up going on between Hillary and her former foes. Indeed, it’s looking more and more like a lovefest.

Steve Piontek



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