Friday, November 03, 2006

GM's health care lobby a nonfactor in D.C.

Friday, September 29, 2006
GM's health care lobby a nonfactor in D.C.
Ron French / The Detroit News

WASHINGTON -- General Motors Corp. does not aggressively pursue health care reform in Washington, despite the devastating toll medical bills are taking on the company.

Congressional aides who asked not to be identified because they deal regularly with the auto industry said they are frustrated by the timidity of the Big Three on an issue they believe is in the automakers' own best interest.

"It confounds me," said David Lemmon, director of communications for Families USA, a health care advocacy group in Washington. "If CAFE (mileage standards) are raised, you see 50 of them (auto lobbyists) coming down the hall. But health care is the issue single-handedly killing them."

Greg Martin, director of global policy and communications in GM's Washington office, acknowledges the company takes a "pragmatic approach" to health care lobbying.

"There isn't the will or the ability to do more," Martin said.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., told CEO Rick Wagoner at a recent congressional hearing that she was baffled by GM's equivocation on health care reform. "Companies like yours are getting an especially bad deal," Clinton told Wagoner. "Why is it that American business doesn't just rise up and say there's got to be a better way here?"

Wagoner danced around the question. "People always want to get into the argument about single-payer (national health insurance)," Wagoner told The Detroit News in a later interview.

"I'm too smart to get into that debate. You guys are going to debate that down here (in Washington)."

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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