When President Barack Obama comes to Raleigh today, he will visit a state heavily invested in the health-care debate where millions are being spent to shape its outcome.
The pharmaceutical industry, working to fight off new generic competitors and Canadian imports, employs 118,000 people in North Carolina. Medical schools churn out doctors torn between careers as specialists or taking the less lucrative but sorely needed path of primary care. And major corporations such as Lowe's Home Improvement are trying to figure out how to cover their employees' medical needs.
In all, North Carolina companies and agencies with an interest in shaping the bills that may reform the nation's health-care system have spent $4.8 million this year in Washington lobbying — a jump of nearly 40 percent over this time a year ago, according to an analysis by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer.
National pharmaceutical companies with significant interests in North Carolina have spent millions more. Together, lobbying dollars for GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Biogen and Wyeth have shot up 23.8 percent over this time last year, to $15.7 million.
GlaxoSmithKline, which spent $4.7 million in the first six months of this year, has its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park. The other companies either now have or plan to build drug manufacturing plants in the state.
The lobbying boost comes as the health industry also pours thousands of dollars into lawmakers' campaign chests. The state's two senators sit on the Senate health committee that wrote significant chunks of the reform bill. Several Democratic lawmakers are viewed as sitting on the fence about reform. (N&O)
On Wednesday, the health care debate reaches a fever pitch in Raleigh at the president's town hall and a rally by opponents to his plan. Throughout the day, Dome will bring you the latest on who's there, who's not, what they're saying and what it all means.