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GOP Starting to Tire of Health Industry’s Timidity

This lobbyist added that the “health care industry is not making deals because they’re cozying up to Democrats. Unlike in 1993-94, the industry is engaging because the industry supports getting something done. PhARMA, hospitals, insurers, nobody believes that it’s good business to continue with the status quo.”

Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, said his organization wants a bipartisan, comprehensive health care reform package.

“We are working with people on both sides of the aisle in both the House and Senate,” he said. “We think we need to accomplish reform, but we have also expressed our strong opposition to a government- run plan and the impact it would have on the coverage people have and currently like.”

One health care consultant, like several others, stressed that lobbyists are maintaining ties and keeping GOPers apprised when it comes to most reform issues.

“They are trying behind the scenes to keep relationships with Republicans,” said another health industry lobbyist.

And perhaps the health industry lobbyists will be calling on those connections sooner rather than later. Lobbyists working on health care reform say they expect at least some of the quiet stakeholders to ratchet up the noise level in the next two weeks and over the August recess.

“You’ve got some pretty bad bills out there in the House and from Senate HELP,” one health care lobbyist said. “There are a certain amount of stakeholders who will be doing things a bit differently in August. Even if you’ve upset Republicans, you’re having some conversations right now with them about what you’re going to be doing in August.”

National Retail Federation Vice President Neil Trautwein said his group and some Hill GOPers have similar concerns over health industry groups that have inked deals with Democrats already.

“Frankly, there’s a lot of shared frustration over groups that have hastened to try to cut deals that may or may not hold water over the long run,” said Trautwein, who is his organization’s point person on health reform. “Absolutely, I really think those have lent a certain degree of momentum to some of the wrong bills at the wrong time. We’re still strongly supportive of reform, but at least two out of the three alternatives on the table are severely flawed,” he said.

“And the fact that some of these groups might try to carve out a deal I think is vastly premature. Speaking for NRF, we’re absolutely not pleased by it,” Trautwein added.

Trautwein said the House bill and the one reported out by the Senate HELP Committee would severely hurt retailers.

“We’re frustrated with Congress for getting health care reform so wrong so far,” he said. “The only semibright light is the Senate Finance Committee. We’re still hoping to get something reasonable out of them.”

Trautwein predicts that as the reform bills further take shape, some of the health industry stakeholders will come back into the opposition fold, and “the broad coalitions we’ve seen in the past” will reappear.

David M. Drucker contributed to this report.

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