The List: Hospitals and Insurers Lobby Up on Healthcare Reform

Hackensack, Horizon, Barnabas lead pack in lobbying expenditures in 2013

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In 2013, New Jersey’s healthcare system geared up for the Affordable Care Act, lobbying legislators and state officials over a wide variety of state-level policy initiatives.

The result: Healthcare industries were among the top 10 special interests that spent the most on lobbying last year, including hospitals (1st), insurers (3rd), pharmaceutical companies (4th), and miscellaneous healthcare-related organizations (10th). Hospitals alone spent $4.5 million.

The following list focuses on the top spenders among hospitals and insurers, but doesn’t include all of the special interests that shelled out on healthcare lobbying. For example, AARP New Jersey spent more than any of these organizations — $717,148 — but healthcare is only one of AARP’s interests, along with energy policy and other concerns.

This list also doesn’t include pharmaceutical companies. Despite its importance to New Jersey, Big Pharma doesn’t usually lobby over state-level healthcare policy. Because this list focuses on organizations that primarily lobby officials about state-level healthcare policy, pharmaceuticals aren’t on this list. Another organization that barely missed this list was the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, which spent $221,160, and has been a longstanding leader over medical malpractice liability lobbying.

1. $628,336: New Jersey Hospital Association

The NJHA, whose lobbying efforts were rated the most influential among healthcare policymakers, also topped the list in spending. The bulk of the money went to in-house salaries ($484,547), but the association also had significant outlays to pay outside lobbyists ($60,000) and for communication expenses ($46,959).

2. $508,500: Hackensack University Medical Center

HUMC is the state’s single, largest hospital and had the lobbying spending to match that status. It reopened the former Pascack Valley Hospital in 2013 over the objection of local rivals. Hackensack’s largest spending was for assessments, membership fees, and dues ($313,000), followed by in-house salaries for lobbyists ($112,500).

3. $456,992: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

The state’s largest insurer had a busy year preparing for the ACA, deciding against renewing small group and individual plans. In-house salaries ($238,541) and pay for outside lobbyists ($156,000) were the bulk of its spending.

4. $434,633: Barnabas Health

While Hackensack is the largest single hospital, Barnabas has the largest system. Unlike its northern New Jersey rival, Barnabas spent more on outside lobbyists ($290,000) than in-house staff ($40,000). Assessments, membership fees, and dues cost $89,483.

5. $383,629: Virtua Health Inc.

South Jersey’s largest system outspent its Camden rival Cooper by $50,000. Virtua and Cooper were on opposite sides of the debate over whether to use a local tax to qualify for more federal funding. Virtua’s 2013 costs were divided among outside lobbyists ($180,000), in-house salaries ($103,594) and communications ($99,100).

6. $333,711: Cooper Health System

Cooper’s voice carries weight in Trenton — potentially helped by hospital chairman George Norcross being perceived as the key powerbroker in his region. Its 2013 lobbying spending went toward outside lobbying firms ($207,030); assessments, membership fees and dues ($69,281); and in-house salaries ($57,400).

7. $279,200: St. Peter’s Healthcare System

The New Brunswick hospital spent more on lobbying than many similar-sized facilities. Top categories were in-house salaries ($119,287); assessments, membership fees, and dues ($64,446); and outside lobbyists ($60,000).

8. $270,000: Bayonne Medical Center

Bayonne, part of for-profit CarePoint Health, received some of the worst national media attention when a federal release of Medicare charges identified it as having the highest charges in the country. It was unique on this list by concentrating every dollar it spent in 2013 on outside lobbyists.

9. $242,526: Meridian Health

Meridian, the largest Jersey Shore-based hospital system, spent more than twice as much on in-house salaries ($121,944) as on outside lobbyists ($50,206).

10. $238,200: Aetna Inc.

The second insurer on this list spent considerably more on outside lobbyists ($116,100) than it did on in-house staff ($81,000).

Thanks to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission for its thorough annual reports on lobbying spending released earlier this month.