Grandad was right: Don't expect any free lunches

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James M. Berklan, Editor
James M. Berklan, Editor
I don't know about you, but when I go to a store and hand over my money or credit card, I expect to get something in return.

If I go into McDonald's, I expect giving up $1 and change is going to get me something that is going to quench my thirst for a while. Call it one of the most obvious natural laws of commerce: I pay, you give.

These are simple but important concepts to remember, especially when considering something like the “Who owns Congress?” package that appeared in the September/October issue of Mother Jones magazine. It tracks the billions of dollars paid to U.S. lawmakers by “business” or “corporate” sponsors each election cycle.

What are these deep-pocketed special interests paying for? Access and influence, of course. They have an agenda and there is no better way to get what you want than to influence the lawmaker(s) you need.

Just remember that the next time you're irritated with something that communications giant AT&T does with impunity. It's No. 1 among congressional corporate “sponsors” nationally.

Of more immediate interest to long-term care providers is the No. 6 entry, the American Medical Association. That would be the physicians' lobbying group that typically gets what it wants when it comes to federal funding, including repeated “fixes” for scheduled Medicare payment reductions.

No. 27 is the American Hospital Association, the other 800-pound gorilla that regularly outguns long-term care interests when it comes to Congressional funding and regulation battles.

The American Health Care Association ranks No. 62. Whether you're a member of AHCA or not, doesn't really matter. It's a group that represents your interests, at least indirectly, in Washington.

And it's spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to do so—something else to keep in mind. While long-term care providers might be piles of cash behind the doctors and hospitals of this country, they are still piles of cash ahead of others in the long-term care continuum.

It's a fact usually overlooked when leaders of any influence-seeking association rail against “those special interest groups in Washington.” If you are reading this, odds are you are a member of a special-interest group. And just like most people, you like to get what you pay for.

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