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Health Care Reform Brings On New Clients

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Broderick Johnson, a partner at Bryan Cave, a lobbying firm that had one of the larger increases in health care-related business this year, said nearly no corporate client wants to be left out of the health care debate.

“They certainly realize how much a role they have in this because of their health care plans,” Johnson said.

Bryan Cave drew $1.2 million in additional business from clients that listed health care as an issue this year, a 175 percent increase from the first three quarters of 2008. Johnson said part of the reason for the increase was that Bryan Cave merged this year with Powell Goldstein.

Bryan Cave’s clients interested in health care include American Society of Clinical Oncology, the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, Walmart and the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.

Not all of the increase in health care lobbying is directly related to the health care reform measure now being debated in Congress. Kelley Drye & Warren’s big jump in client revenue from companies that listed health care was due to its lobbying on behalf of Omega Protein Corp. Omega has been seeking appropriations language that would promote public awareness of the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

Many health care newcomers are motivated by parochial concerns.

The home-school group, which has spent $60,000 so far this year on lobbying, zeroed in on one of the lesser-known provisions of the legislation. It would award grants to states to fund home visitation programs by professionals to provide advice for pregnant women and families with children under the age of five. The visits, according to supporters, are intended to promote parenting skills, reducing risk for child abuse and advocate prenatal and early childhood health.

Estrada said that while the program would be voluntary, he feared that states might feel pressured to push for more visits to keep their funding levels up.

“We are concerned about any situation where the federal officials are going into homes and teaching families how to raise kids,” he said. The home-school association, with its three-person in-house lobbying team, has devoted most of its resources to getting information to its membership and talking to lawmakers on the Hill.

On its Web site, the home-school group urged its members prior to the House vote on health care to call their Representatives and “oppose the federal government’s takeover of health care.” However, it also advised “you should not identify yourself as a homeschooler.”

Estrada said the reasoning for not divulging the home-school link was that it might confuse Congressional staffers since health care “is not a home-school issue.”

Others lobbying over pieces of the massive health care measure include Abilene, Texas, which was drawn to the issue because of its efforts to attract biotechnology firms. The city is backing reform provisions that would give brand-name drug firms at least 12 years to exclusively market biologic drugs before generic companies can enter. Biotechnology firms have said they need that period to recoup their investment.

While Richard Burdine, the assistant city manager for economic development, conceded his West Texas city was not a big voice in the Congressional health care debate, he said, “you can’t win if you don’t enter. We need to participate.”

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