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K Street Files: The Heat Is On

Health insurers recently voiced their displeasure with Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) proposal to include a “public plan” in his health care legislation.

“A government plan option — in any form — is unnecessary to achieve comprehensive reform and would have devastating consequences on the health insurance coverage that employers and individuals currently have, the federal budget deficit and existing provider system,” insurers wrote June 19.

The letter was signed by America’s Health Insurance Plans President Karen Ignagni and Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association President Scott Serota.

To date, insurance companies — and other stakeholders — are keeping their word not to torpedo health care proposals, a promise that a government-run insurance pool, which is backed by some Democrats, is likely to test this summer.

President Barack Obama discussed the AHIP’s letter in his Tuesday news conference, calling the government-run insurance plan “an important tool to discipline insurance companies.”

“If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care, if they tell us they’re offering a good deal, then why is it that the government — which they say can’t run anything — suddenly is going to drive them out of business?” Obama said. “That isn’t logical.”

Organized labor is lining up behind Obama in support of a public plan. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and other unions are taking part in a Washington, D.C., fly-in Thursday to voice support for a public plan.

Nonprofits Still Registering. President Barack Obama’s executive order banning lobbyists from joining any areas of the executive branch that they might have lobbied in the past two years appears to have sparked several public interest group terminations under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.

But not all nonprofit advocates are shy about registering to lobby.

The Center for Competitive Politics, for example, recently decided to bite the bullet and get into the influence game.

The group, which actually sent its own letter complaining about Obama’s lobbying ban, registered this spring in anticipation of the Fair Elections Now Act, introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), according to the group’s spokesman, Jeff Patch.

The bill would allow federal candidates to run with a combination of small donations and limited public funds.

“We thought it was important to get our message out to federal lawmakers and registered out of an abundance of caution,” Patch said. “We really didn’t have a huge intent to do a lot of federal lobbying. ... We wanted to be sure we registered in case we did reach that 20 percent” registration threshold.

Saxton Starts Lobbying. Former New Jersey GOP Rep. Jim Saxton may have retired from Congress earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean he’s staying away from Washington, D.C.

The Mount Holly, N.J., resident recently registered his first lobbying client, STARA Technologies, for his consulting firm, Jim Saxton LLC.

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