Expect some unexpected guests at the house parties being held of the next two weeks to meet and greet incoming President Barack Obama.
The health insurance industry is encouraging its employees to attend as well as satisfied customers. The American Medical Association is telling doctors to show up too, making these some pretty crowded parties.
Mr. Obama had made a commitment to reform health care from the ground up.
There are more than 4,200 meetings planned, some with just a dozen people or so and more are reported to be in the works.
The president-elect had promised living-room sessions to find out how the American people envision health care, but Obama spokeswoman says they are aware they could turn into lobbying sessions.
“These are listening sessions,” says Stephanie Cutter, for the Obama transition team.
The Healthcare Leadership Council is a coalition of the heads of 40 insurance and drug companies including Aetna, Eli Lilly, Medtronic, Merck, and Pfizer as well as CVS, Ascension Health, Caremark.
The insurance lobbying is disseminating information to Medicare recipients that millions could see their benefits reduced and higher costs if they lose their Medicare Advantage coverage entirely. The insurance lobby hopes to galvanize beneficiaries into action on behalf of the insurance industry.
Others come from the private sector and consumer groups such as Health Care for America Now, which advocates that a new public program is essential.
“We're bringing together community organizers, nurses, doctors, small business owners, faith-based groups, organizations of people of color, and seniors who believe it's time we had an American solution that provides quality, affordable health care for everyone,” says the group’s web site.
Insurers might find fault with Mr. Obama’s suggestion that a new public insurance program compete with private insurance. And he is looking at a proposal to cut the Medicare payments to private companies, since studies have shown that Medicare often overpays.
Former Senator Tom Daschle, will be the incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The public plan he said will be modeled after Medicare and will be able to negotiate for the lowest prices from health care providers.
America's Health Insurance Plans, a national trade association representing 1,300 member companies such as WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group Inc., Humana Inc. and Aetna Inc., has spent more than $1.6 million on lobbying efforts during the third-quarter, according to a recent disclosure form.
An earlier version of the group was behind the dismantling of Bill Clinton’s early health reform efforts.
Lobbying efforts have focused on the Medicare Advantage program, Medicare prescription drug price negotiations, health insurance and tax-related issues, as well as the eligibility of the SCHIP program, which provides coverage to low-income children. #