Insurers spent record high totals on lobbying this year as congressional Democrats worked on multi-billion dollar legislation to subsidize commercial health plans and expand access to coverage.
America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurers like Cigna and Centene, spent $3.9 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2021, a 7% increase over the same time period last year.
That's the most money AHIP has ever spent on lobbying in a first quarter, representing the changing political landscape in Washington that tends to favor expanding access to health coverage, which often means subsidizing commercial health plans.
One of the first things Democrats did after winning control of Congress and the White House was pass a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which included billions of dollars in COBRA subsidies to help laid off workers keep their health coverage and to expand access to plans on the individual marketplace.
Democrats and healthcare experts called the provision the largest expansion of the ACA since the law was passed 10 years ago, with more generous premium assistance for people low-incomes and the expansion of eligibility for subsidies to middle-income earners.
AHIP reported lobbying on these provisions and a slew of other bills that would effect the industry, including proposals to establish a public option that would compete with commercial plans.
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Centene and Molina also reported increases in lobbying spending in the last quarter when compared to the first quarter of 2020.
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, a not-for-profit plan associated with Kaiser Permanente, spent $2 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2021, a 200% increase from the same time frame last year.
The organization reported lobbying efforts on various public option proposals, Medicare for All, the COVID-19 relief package and telehealth and drug pricing bills.
Centene, which has a large footprint in the Medicaid, ACA and Medicare spaces, saw a 80% spike in lobbying in Q1 of 2021, spending $1.4 million on its efforts.
Molina spent $910,000 in Q1 of 2021, an increase of about 8% from first quarter 2020.
Meanwhile, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association spent $1.4 million on lobbying in the first quarter, a 25% drop from the same period last year.
Disclosures for UnitedHealth Group, Humana, Anthem and other insurers have not yet been posted online. This article will be updated as more data becomes available.