January 18, 2011; Source: The American (American Enterprise Institute) | The American Enterprise Institute blogger, Joseph Antos, defends the "lobbying" of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, a nonprofit health insurance company, as necessary because the firm "has to care about its financial bottom line." With more than 40 percent of the money in healthcare coming from state and federal programs, entities like Blue Cross are compelled to lobby, he says. And it will only get worse when "ObamaCare" is fully implemented.
Oddly, however, Antos conflates lobbying with electoral activities. The criticism that Blue Cross got wasn't that it was lobbying the state of Florida. Blue Cross gave $303,000 to a political action committee called "Let's Get to Work." The PAC was part of Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott's campaign apparatus. Although Scott, a former CEO of Columbia/HCA hospital chain, which became for a time the largest health care provider in the nation, put $60 million of his own money in the campaign, he tapped plenty of health care firms including nonprofits such as Blue Cross.
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But Blue Cross has long been one of the largest contributors to Republican candidates in Florida. Perhaps the nonprofit Blue Cross was attracted Scott's role in creating Conservatives for Patients' Rights to fight against President Obama's health care reform legislation. Apparently, Blue Cross wasn't bothered by Scott's ouster from Columbia/HCA in 1997 due to charges of fraudulent over billing of state and federal health plans, to which Columbia/HCA pled guilty and paid $1.7 billion in fines.
Since Scott's election, Blue Cross has kicked in another $25,000 toward the costs of the governor's inauguration. No one expects nonprofits, even not-very-nonprofity nonprofits like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, to forego their legal right to lobby, even if the lobbying is meant to undo important health care insurance reforms that discomfit the insurers – nonprofit and for-profit alike. But bankrolling Scott's gubernatorial campaign and turning a blind eye to Scott's ethical transgressions with the health insurance industry is not lobbying.—Rick Cohen