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The many political ties of hospital chain HCA

By Laurie Bennett

August 15, 2012 at 11:59am

As if you needed further proof that health care is a matter of money and politics as much as medicine, we present you with this map:

HCA Inc., a Fortune 500 company that owns 163 hospitals, has strong ties to the presumptive Republican nominee for president, the current governor of Florida, and a former U.S. senator whose father and brother founded the company.

It employs five Washington lobby firms, spending $340,000 last year on efforts to shape federal policy and legislation.

It also has a PAC, which has spent more than $387,000 in the current election cycle. Although the PAC favored Democratic candidates in 2008 and 2010, Republicans are getting far more of the HCA contributions this time around. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, 66 percent of the PAC spending is going to Republicans this year.

The corporate bottom line is closely tied to federal health insurance. Medicaid and Medicare payments accounted for 40 percent of HCA revenues last year, according to the company’s annual report.

The company, which is publicly traded, was bought in 2006 by three private equity firms: KKR, Merrill Lynch and Bain Capital, which was co-founded by Mitt Romney.

Bain has three representatives on the HCA board. One of them, John Connaughton, has contributed $250,000 to the super PAC supporting Romney.

HCA has since bought back the Merrill Lynch stake. The controlling stockholders are Bain, KKR and members of the Frist family. HCA founder Thomas Frist is the father of former Sen. William H. Frist (R-TN).

The company was formed through the merger of HCA-Hospital Corporation of America and Columbia Healthcare Corporation, which was headed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican.

For a closer look at HCA operations, see the New York Times account of how “soaring profits” have become a model for other hospital chains.

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