Telehealth legislation intensifies in Congress, and Amazon spends a lot on its telehealth investments and lobbying.
Telehealth became a necessity at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and spending on health services increased. Due to the historic amount of congressional laws focused on health services due to the pandemic, federal lobbying spending by health service groups hit a record high of $ 100.9 million in 2020. That was about five times what they spent 20 years ago – and the industry is on. track to spend more in 2021.
Amazon, which is creating its own healthcare service, is the largest consumer of corporate lobbying so far in 2021. The company spent nearly $ 10.2 million on lobbying in the first six months of year, and spent $ 18.7 million in 2020. Amazon used some of its lobbying spending to focus on telehealth-focused legislation.
Amazon’s telehealth madness comes in the second year of offering its own virtual healthcare service, Amazon care. The app-based program connects clients to licensed clinicians and allows them to send each other messages, audio calls, or video calls. It also includes prescription delivery and home care.
Amazon Care in-person services are currently limited to a few areas of the United States – including Washington, Washington, DC, and Baltimore – but there are plans to add 20 cities from here. the end of 2022. By the end of 2021, the service could reach Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas, according to a report from Business Insider.
Amazon Care is currently funded by companies that pay it directly, including Amazon itself. The company reached out to Aetna, an insurer owned by CVS Health, to work with the platform. CVS Health spent $ 4.9 million on lobbying this year and lobbied on telehealth bills. Other insurers such as Premera Blue Cross, an independent licensee of Blue Cross / Blue Shield, are also working with Amazon Care to make its services a covered benefit. Blue Cross / Blue Shield spent $ 12 million on lobbying in 2021, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets.
Amazon has pushed for four specific telehealth bills this year. The most important is HR 1332 or the Telehealth Modernization Act of 2021, which codifies and expands telehealth services under Medicare. So far, 43 groups have lobbied the bill and spent a total of $ 61.4 million on it and other issues, according to analysis by OpenSecrets.
The Hospital Corporation of America, one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, is also supporting the Telehealth Modernization Act. The company has already spent almost $ 1.1 million this year by lobbying on various issues. In 2020, the company’s lobbying spending jumped to $ 2.4 million, and it has already spent $ 2.1 million in 2021.
In the first half of 2021, 165 organizations collectively spent $ 175.8 million lobbying on telehealth bills and bills, according to an analysis by OpenSecrets. At least 13 telehealth-focused bills have been introduced in Congress this year and many companies, including Amazon, have lobbied them.
The United States Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest lobbying expense so far in 2021, has also lobbied telehealth legislation. The group spent $ 29.6 million on lobbying in the first six months of 2021.
The country’s largest healthcare employer, UnitedHealth Group, spent $ 1.8 million to lobby healthcare services in the first half of 2021, and specifically lobbied on two telehealth bills : S. 150 and HR 2166. The bills would ensure that Medicare Advantage and PACE beneficiaries can access audio-only telehealth services, and their providers can be reimbursed for them.
Some of the country’s largest healthcare groups are also lobbying S. 150 and HR 2166. In the first six months of 2021, Kaiser Permanente spent $ 2.3 million on lobbying and Centene Corp spent $ 2.5 million.
The expansion of Telehealth lobbying has coincided with an unprecedented increase in campaign spending by health service groups. The industry donated over $ 160.7 million to campaigns during the 2020 election cycle, more than it spent for the 1990-2012 election cycles combined. The majority of that money ($ 109.1 million) came from Miriam Adelson of the Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research. The 2020 total more than doubled the $ 68.4 million the industry spent in 2016. The majority of their 2020 contributions – $ 29.1 million – went to Democratic candidates.
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