Healthcare Reform

Donations by hospitals and their employees heavily favor Biden, Democrats

October 28, 2020 11:26 am
  • Hospitals and their employees donated more than $7 million to Joe Biden, representing 63% of the sector’s donations to presidential campaigns this cycle, so far.
  • Partners HealthCare and its employees donated the most — more than $1.6 million — including 97.7% to Democrats.
  • The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association donated $3.98 million to Democrats and $2.21 million to Republicans.

Campaign donations from hospitals and their workers broke decisively for Joe Biden and other Democrats this election cycle, so far, according to election data.

Overall, hospitals and nursing homes — and their employees — donated $19,481,309 this campaign cycle, so far, to federal campaigns and aligned outside groups, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), which tabulated data submitted by the Oct. 16 filing deadline. Among those donations, 78.2% went to Democratic candidates and Democrat-aligned outside groups.

In the presidential election, those provider entities and employees have donated $11,399,346, including $7,169,522, or 63%, to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. President Donald Trump received $4,229,824, or 37% of the donations.

Although the organizations strongly favored Biden, their support for Trump sharply increased from 2016, when hospitals and their employees gave Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton $5,541,935 and Trump only $660,086.

Hospitals are focused on a wide range of policies proposed by Trump and Biden that could affect their organizations’ finances. For instance, Biden has proposed a so-called public option, which would be a government-run health plan to be sold in the ACA marketplaces. His campaign has said the plan would negotiate rates with hospitals in the same manner Medicare does. However, Medicare does not negotiate provider rates.

Depending on where the payment rates are set and the extent to which enrollees join a public option, the effects on revenue for a sample hospital range from a 0.3% increase to a 7% cut, according to modeling by the Advisory Board.

Hospital donation trends differed from other healthcare segments tracked by CRP, including:

  • Healthcare professionals donated $34,672,575 (78.2% to Democrats and 21.7% to Republicans)
  • Health services/HMOs donated $45,123,694 (14.2% to Democrats and 85.8% to Republicans)
  • Pharmaceuticals/Health products donated $12,411,778 (86.4% to Democrats and 13.5% to Republicans)

“It’s not surprising the industry generally favors Democratic candidates because Democratic candidates are generally more favorably disposed to throwing taxpayer money at the healthcare industry,” said Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute. “That doesn’t mean that Democrats are friendly to the entire industry. Democrats are less friendly to pharmaceuticals and insurance companies.”

Cannon said Democrats have sought to cut Medicare payments to pharmaceutical companies and to health plans, such as in the case  of Medicare Advantage.

“And Republicans have, in the name of limited government, come to the defense of higher payments to pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies,” Cannon said sarcastically. “So, that’s irony.”

Although the strong pharmaceutical industry shift toward Democrats may appear surprising, given Biden’s plan to have Medicare negotiate Part D prices for the first time, it likely means they have accepted that policy as a future reality, Cannon said.

Drug companies may reason, “Democrats are going to win this time around, so we better make nice while we can if we want to take part in whatever discussions come after the election,” Cannon said.

A closer look at hospital donations

The overall hospital-sector donations masked wide variation among leading hospital advocates and within individual hospitals and health systems.

Out of the $9,137,562 donated by the Greater New York Hospital Association, only $105,962 went directly to candidates, with 92% going to Democrats and 8% going to Republicans. The $9,031,600 donated to outside groups, all of which were Democratic or liberal, included $1.5 million to the House Majority PAC, which supports Democrats running for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The American Hospital Association donated $1,322,894 to candidates, with 65.8% going to Democrats and 34.2% to Republicans.

The Federation of American Hospitals donated $359,514, including 52.9% to Democrats and 47.1% to Republicans

The political action committee (PAC) of America’s Essential Hospitals contributed $88,000 to federal candidates, including 57% to Democrats and 43% to Republicans.

Among hospitals and health systems, Partners HealthCare and its employees donated the most — $1,661,287 — to federal candidates. That included 97.7% to Democrats and 1.8% to Republicans.

Other major hospital and health system donors included:

  • HCA Inc: $776,204, including 56.7% to Democrats and 43.3% to Republicans
  • Texas Children’s Hospital: $760,809, including 13.6% to Democrats and 86.4% to Republicans
  • Mayo Clinic: $593,970, including 81.8% to Democrats and 17.5% to Republicans
  • University of Pittsburgh Medical Center: $389,403, including 88% to Democrats and 11.8% to Republicans
  • Providence Health & Services: $369,677, including 90.7% to Democrats and 7.4% to Republicans
  • NYU Langone Medical Center: $307,258, including 92.6% to Democrats and 7.2% to Republicans

A closer look at health plan donations

Health plans also were deeply involved in campaign donations in the 2020 election cycle as they examined Biden’s proposals for both a public option and an expansion of Medicare eligibility to people ages 60 and older.

Health plans may seek to temper both those policies by having the Medicare expansion include Medicare Advantage plans and by using Medicaid managed care plans as the public option in each state, Cannon said.

“It’s hard to know without more specifics how the insurance companies are going to feel about a public option,” Cannon said.

The leading health insurance group donor was Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), which donated $3.98 million to Democrats and $2.21 million to Republicans. BCBSA donated $342,400 to Biden and $81,629 to Trump.

The America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) PAC donated $219,500 to federal candidates, including 51% to Democrats and 49% to Republicans. Donations have dropped significantly since 2008, when AHIP gave $617,000.

Among health plans, the UnitedHealth Group Inc. PAC donated $1,174,600 to federal candidates, including 44% to Democrats and 56% to Republicans.


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