Big Money Loses. . . For a Change

June 16, 2016

People with disabilities and the elderly scored a rare David-versus-Goliath win at the State Capitol earlier this month when a plan was dropped to turn over state-run programs that provide them with key services to large private insurers that spend a boatload of money to get their way.

The programs – Family Care and IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct) – provide financial, medical and home care services to about 55,000 elderly or disabled Wisconsin residents. A proposal approved last year in the 2015-17 state budget required the Department of Health Services to devise a plan giving the responsibility to run the programs to private insurers. The agency released the plan in April, but announced June 9 that it was being dropped after numerous disability rights groups, consumers, legislators and others panned it.

Among those who lobbied for the plan was the Alliance of Health Insurers, which is made up of eight health insurance companies that claim to control two-thirds of the state’s health insurance market. All told, the eight insurers contributed about $682,000 to legislative and statewide candidates between January 2009 and December 2015.

Those insurers and their total individual and political action committee contributions during the seven-year period were:

Managed Health Services, $189,498

Humana, $184,705

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, $165,275

UnitedHealthcare, $51,035

Delta Dental, $30,508

Wisconsin Education Association Insurance Corp., $24,532

Wisconsin Physicians Service, $15,510

Molina Healthcare of Wisconsin, $12,765

Alliance of Health Insurers, $8,250

In addition to campaign contributions, these large health insurers spent about $772,000 on lobbying in 2015, led by Anthem at $164,374 and UnitedHealthcare at $124,006.

On the other side, lobby spending and campaign contributions by aging and disability groups that oppose the Walker administration’s plan were sharply lower than the insurers.

On lobbying in 2015, AARP spent nearly $83,000, Disability Rights Wisconsin spent about $75,400, Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources spent about $17,900, and the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups spent about $2,500. Campaign contributions between January 2009 and December 2015 by employees of the four aging and disability groups totaled nearly $5,000.