The biggest individual healthcare-related contributor to political party coffers so far in the 1996 election is not a household name in the provider community.
Instead of coming from a Washington-based lobbying group or a well-known investor-owned hospital chain, that contribution came from a little-known long-term-care investor named Stiles Kellett.
A director of the New London, Conn.-based subacute provider Mariner Health Group, Kellett gave $250,000 in a "soft-money" donation to the Republican Party in June.
Kellett's donation illustrated a pattern of generous soft-money contributions by long-term-care interests that far outweighed what hospitals gave. Such contributions are given directly to the political parties, used for voter registration, education or mobilization and not subject to any legal limits. The biggest long-term-care contributors gave $483,600 to Republicans and $431,050 to Democrats. The biggest hospital contributors gave $251,600 to Republicans and $156,400 to Democrats.
A comprehensive report on soft-money contributions published by the watchdog group Common Cause doesn't include healthcare-related donations of less than $50,000.
Kellett's wasn't the biggest healthcare-related soft-money donation to come in the first 19 months of the 1996 federal election cycle. That honor belonged to Integrated Health Services, which gave $294,000 to Democrats. The Owings Mills, Md.-based long-term-care company contributed $190,000 to the Democrats, while Robert Elkins, the company's chief executive officer, gave $104,000 to the Democrats.
Kellett's donation was, however, the biggest given by an individual in the healthcare field. It also was the biggest healthcare donation to the GOP and was the 36th-largest of all Republican soft-money donations.
Although he is identified in the Common Cause report as a healthcare-related contributor, Kellett listed his affiliation on his donation not with Mariner but as chairman of Kellett Investment Corp. of Atlanta, home of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Mariner officials said Kellett's contribution was not related to Mariner's activities and probably was the result of his connections to the Georgia GOP.
Those contributions came during an election cycle in which the Republican-led Congress had been considering major changes in the way Medicare reimburses skilled nursing and home care. It also came as the newly ascendant Republicans began pushing lobbying groups to contribute more to their members and party committees.
As Congress considered major reforms to the Medicare system in autumn 1995, Mariner lobbied for a prospective payment system similar to what hospitals now have. In fact, the skilled-nursing PPS was not part of the initial Medicare reform legislation but was inserted by amendments.
Other long-term-care-related donors joining Kellett in giving to the GOP were the American Health Care Association, a nursing home trade group; Ralph Nagel of Le Gan, a Denver-based owner of the Meridian retirement communities; and Don Angell of Angell Group, a Clemmons, N.C., nursing home owner.
On the Democrats' side of the soft-money ledger, Manor Care joined Integrated Health Services and the AHCA as a long-term-care contributor.