Spending reports by health-care lobbying interests reflect their success at having their way in the Kentucky General Assembly

Kentucky Health News

Seven of the top eight spenders on lobbying the General Assembly last year had health-care issues in play. Most of the seven were mainly focused on health issues, and most of them were successful.

Lobbying reports to the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission showed the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies on some health issues, ranked first by spending $408,301, mainly for the 16 lobbyists it employs. The Kentucky Hospital Association was second at $304,707.

“Included in the hospital advocacy group’s spending was $23,000 on digital advertising for its priority legislation that passed into law after stops and starts, loosening requirements on ambulance services to improve slow response times,” notes Joe Sonka of the Louisville Courier Journal. “KHA also successfully lobbied for two bills providing incentives to attract and retain nurses and health care workers and one to expand hospitals’ remote access to pharmacy databases.”

The third-place spender, at $269,685, was tobacco company Altria, parent of Philip Morris USA. Altria “successfully lobbied to block a bill raising taxes on cigarettes and vaping products and another that would give local governments the ability to add extra regulations on the display of tobacco and vaping products,” Sonka reports.

The fourth-ranking spender was the ACLU of Kentucky, at $195,489. Among other things, it lobbied unsuccessfully against bills to restrict abortion.

The main lobbying group for doctors, the Kentucky Medical Association, ranked fifth at $157,416. KMA spent $30,000 “for polling it commissioned late in the year to craft messaging for one of its top legislative priorities” in the session that begam Jan. 3 and will resume Feb. 5. “The KMA has a website promoting a “physician-led, team-based care model,” urging people to contact legislators and oppose legislation to lift limits on services that can be provided by nurse practitioners,” Sonka rpeorts.

Hospital firm HCA Healthcare, which has hospitals in Bowling Green and Frankfort, was seventh in lobbying spending at $146,548. LifePoint Health, which has hospitals in Flemingsburg, Georgetown, Lebanon, Mayfield, Maysville, Paris, Somerset, Versailles and Winchester, reported spending $110,002, ranking it 17th.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association ranked eighth, at $142,257. The group represents pharmacy benefit managers, who are middlemen between drug manufacturers and insurance companies; the managers have come under much legislative scrutiny in recent years. The group successfully oppposed a bill to rein in in pharmacy benefit managers; House Bill 457 “breezed through the House by an 88-3 vote but then ground to a halt in the Senate without any readings or committee hearings — all while the association spent more than $52,000 on advertisements urging legislators to defeat the bill,” Sonka writes. “Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill stalled after his caucus began to hear concerns from the business sector about the measure increasing the costs of health plans, mirroring the association’s messaging.”

The other lobbying group in the top eight was the Kentucky League of Cities, which ranked sixth at $151,308. Its main legislative interest, a constitutional amendment to give cities more taxing options, including sales taxes, was defeated by the No. 9 group, the Kentucky Retail Federation, which reported spending $142,237. Overall lobbying expenses hit a record $24.3 million in 2022.

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