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Health Care Industry Officials, Lobbyists Met With Obama During Debate On Reform November 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health.
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Wednesday 25 November 2009

by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report

Top health care officials met with Barack Obama and other administration officials just as the president pushed Congress to pass legislation to overhaul the health insurance industry, newly released White House visitor logs show.

According to an analysis by the Associated Press, the 1,600 records the White House released Wednesday show that a “broad cross-section of the people most heavily involved in the health care debate, weighted heavily with those who want to overhaul the system.”

Some of these individuals include:

Laird Burnett, a top lobbyist for insurer Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., and a former Senate aide. Kaiser has spent some $1.7 million lobbying Congress over the past two years.

Joshua Ackil, a lobbyist whose clients include Intel, U.S. Oncology Inc., and Knoa Software Inc., all of which have reported lobbying on the health care overhaul. Ackil met with Dan Turton, the White House’s deputy legislative affairs director who works with the House, in August. Seven people were at the Aug. 21 meeting, the records show.

Alissa Fox, a lobbyist with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, met March 31 with Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget. Four people attended, the records show. The health insurance federation has spent at least $6.7 million lobbying this year.

Amador “Dean” Aguillen, a former aide to Nancy Pelosi who is now with Ogilvy Government Relations, where he lobbies for clients including pharmaceutical companies SanofiPasteur and Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, Pfizer Inc., and Amgen USA Inc., all of which reported lobbying on health care issues this year. Aguillen appears to have attended the same Aug. 21 meeting with Turton that Ackil did.

Bloomberg added that the visits also included representatives from pharmaceutical trade groups.

Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, visited eight times, meeting twice with Obama and once with economic adviser Lawrence Summers. Former U.S. Representative Billy Tauzin, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, had two meetings with deputy chief of staff Jim Messina among at least eight at the White House.

Ignagni’s group, whose members include Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., is lobbying against efforts to include a public insurance option to compete with the private companies that are members of her trade association. Phrma, whose members include Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck & Co., is pushing Congress to enact health-care legislation.

Norm Eisen, special counsel to the president for ethics and government reform, said Wednesday that the administration received more than 300 requests from the public during the month of October seeking access to the visitor logs, which were posted on the White House’s website.

“Consistent with our earlier announcement that we will only release records that are 90 days or older, this group of records covers the time period between January 20, 2009 to August 31, 2009,” Eisen wrote in a blog post.

Eisen noted that many of the names on the list may appear to be well-known figures, but he cautioned that these indivudals are not who they would appear to be.

“With an average of 100,000 White House access records created each month, many White House Visitors share the same name as celebrities,” Eisen wrote. “In October, requests were submitted for the names of some notable figures (for example Michael Jordan and Michael Moore)…The famous individuals with those names never actually came to the White House, but we have included the individuals that did visit and share those names.”

Heavyweights in the energy and banking industries, were also among the individuals who met with Obama and senior members of his administration.

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