'Rising enthusiasm for Medicare for All' has provoked dramatic surge in industry-backed lobbying: Report
National Nurses United (NNU), along with a broader coalition of pro-Medicare for All organizations, rallied outside of the national headquarters of PhRMA in support of Medicare for All. (Photo: NNU/Flickr/cc)

"The increase in lobbying against Medicare for All serves as validation from our opposition that this movement has arrived."

An analysis published Friday by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen shows that "rising enthusiasm for Medicare for All has prompted industry to increase its lobbying against the proposal dramatically," suggesting that powerful healthcare interests perceive the movement to replace the nation's for-profit system "as a politically viable threat."

The new report—entitled Fever Pitch: Surge in Opposition Lobbying and Advocacy Validates the Credibility of the Medicare for All Movement (pdf)—reveals that "between the first quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019, the number of organizations hiring lobbyists whose lobbying disclosure forms indicated that they worked on Medicare for All increased by nearly seven times, and the overall number of lobbyists hired increased ninefold."

Public Citizen program associate Craig Sandler, the report's author, said in a statement Friday that "the increase in lobbying against Medicare for All serves as validation from our opposition that this movement has arrived."

The report adds that "the diverse and powerful array of trade groups, conservative activist organizations, GOP-linked establishment groups, and healthcare industry interests launching an all-out advertising blitz against Medicare for All further reinforces this reality."

Beyond the lobbying numbers, other key findings from Fever Pitch include:

  • Six of the seven organizations hiring the most lobbyists to work on Medicare for All in the first quarter of 2019 belong to the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, a new coalition dedicated to opposing single-payer healthcare proposals;
  • Nine of the 10 organizations hiring the most lobbyists on Medicare for All oppose it; and
  • Some of the most visible opposition to Medicare for All comes from major players in American conservatism, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Koch network, and GOP strategist and money-wrangler Karl Rove.

In a tweet promoting the report, Public Citizen listed some the groups hiring the most lobbyists to oppose Medicare for All:

"The insurers, Big Pharma, and the for-profit hospital industry are running scared," said Public Citizen healthcare policy advocate Eagan Kemp. "They know the public is lining up behind Medicare for All—which would improve coverage for every American. Now big money opponents are trying to leverage their political power to beat back Medicare for All, not on the merits, but through insider lobbying and front groups."

As multiple polls in recent months have shown that Medicare for All is a top priority for Democratic voters, a growing number of Democrats in Congress have signed on to bills that aim to replace the country's private healthcare system that prioritizes profits over patients with a national single-payer program that provides universal coverage.

The Medicare for All Act of 2019unveiled by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) in February, is backed by 113 House Democrats, and the version introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in April has 14 Democratic co-sponsors, including several other 2020 presidential candidates.

In response to mounting public demands for reform and recently proposed legislation, the Democrat-controlled House Rules, Budget, and Ways and Means committees all held historic hearings on Medicare for All this spring.

"We always knew we had the facts on our side," said Sandler, "and now we've got the public and many policymakers with us."

However, not all Democrats are on board with overhauling the existing system.

The Partnership for America's Health Care Future—an insurance industry front-group that has celebrated Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan to incrementally expand healthcare by building on Obamacare rather than through single-payer—sent an email to supporters Thursday noting fresh criticism of Medicare for All from Sen. Joe Manchin, the so-called "conservative Democrat" from West Virginia who's notorious for siding with Republicans on crucial votes.

Manchin's comments about Medicare for All, from a Wednesday event hosted by The Hill, were also highlighted on Twitter by none other than Donald Trump Jr.