- Alyssa Powell/Business Insider
- Healthcare has becomes a prominent part of the 2020 presidential campaign, and the healthcare industry’s donations to candidates have come under scrutiny.
- Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has said he won’t take funds from drugmakers and health insurers and called on other candidates to follow.
- The healthcare sector, which includes drugmakers, health insurers, doctors, and hospitals, has contributed more than $5 million so far towards the many presidential candidates, according to data from OpenSecrets through the end of June.
- President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign was a top recipient of healthcare dollars, and Sanders’ campaign ranked in the top five. Read on to see how much every candidate received.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Healthcare is a major issue in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.
It’s also become a flashpoint when it comes to presidential campaign contributions, with longtime Vermont Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders saying he won’t take donations from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries and calling on other candidates to follow.
So far, the healthcare sector has contributed more than $5 million in total towards the many presidential candidates, from President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign all the way to his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, according to new data from the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics’s OpenSecrets covering the campaign season through the end of June.
- Yutong Yuan/Business Insider
With nearly 30 Democratic contenders gearing up to face off against President Donald Trump, many have said that expanding access to health coverage should be a priority – and some, like Sanders, have pushed for a bigger overhaul of the US healthcare system advocating “Medicare for All.”
Sanders has said he won’t take funds from the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries in pursuit of that goal.
If you’re a pharmaceutical executive, or a health insurance lobbyist, keep your money. I don’t want it.
What I want is for every person in this country to have the dignity of being able to get the medical care they need, when they need it. I want #MedicareForAll.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 17, 2019
The presidential candidate put out a No Health Insurance and Pharma Money Pledge that bars “knowingly” taking contributions of more than $200 from political action committees, lobbyists and executives of drugmakers like Merck and Novartis and health insurers like Cigna and Kaiser Permanente. But it does not extend to the average employee. The pledge also does not apply to other healthcare sectors like hospitals.
The stance represents a departure from the 2016 election, when Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Trump both blasted the pharmaceutical industry and its high drug prices, while still taking campaign donations.
Read on to see how much the 2020 candidates have brought in from the health sector so far. We reached out to every campaign for comment, and included responses below if we received them.
The data from OpenSecrets includes contributions from employees at hospitals, health insurers and makers of drugs and medical supplies, as well as professionals like dentists and nurses as part of the healthcare sector.
OpenSecrets doesn’t yet have data on Tom Steyer and Joe Sestak, who declared their candidacies more recently. Mike Gravel’s contributions aren’t included because they’re largely small and not categorized, OpenSecrets said.
23. William F. Weld (R)
- Paul Marotta/Getty Images
Healthcare contributions: $6,085
Why it matters: When Weld was the governor of Massachusetts he expanded Medicaid access and asked the federal government to boost funding to his state for Medicaid. More than half of Weld’s healthcare contributions, or $3,800, come from “pharmaceuticals/health products” OpenSecrets said.
22. Tim Ryan (D)
Healthcare contributions: $14,260
Why it matters: Ryan is US representative for Ohio’s 13th district. He is a member of the Medicare for All Caucus in the House of Representatives and a cosponsor on a Medicare for All bill. According to OpenSecrets, Ryan has received $8,185 from health professionals
21. Steve Bullock (D)
- Mike Blake/Reuters
Healthcare contributions: $18,871
Why it matters: The Montana governor supports increasing access to publicly funded healthcare. During the second Democratic primary debate, Bullock opposed Medicare for All saying, “This is an example of wish list economics. It used to be just Republicans that wanted to repeal and replace. Now many Democrats do, as well.”
According to OpenSecrets, Bullock has received most of his contributions from health professionals, at $11,100.
20. Bill de Blasio (D)
- Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Healthcare contributions: $21,125
Why it matters: The New York City mayor supports universal healthcare and during the first Democratic primary debates, he and Senator Elizabeth Warren were the only two candidates on stage to raise their hands when asked if they would replace private insurance with Medicare for All.
His top donors in health contributions come from “health professionals” at $15,000, OpenSecrets says.
19. Seth Moulton (D)
Healthcare contributions: $21,636
Why it matters: The Massachusetts congressman entered the race in April 2019 and has taken a more moderate stance on certain policies than his rivals. He believes in a public option for healthcare, but does not support Medicare for All.
On his campaign website, he says “healthcare is a human right” and that he welcomes improvements to the Affordable Care Act.
Moulton has received the majority of his healthcare contributions from hospitals and nursing homes at $9,641, according to OpenSecrets.
18. Marianne Williamson (D)
- Sean Rayford/Getty Images
Healthcare contributions: $21,872
Why it matters: The author and political advocate is supportive of a system where everyone can get health coverage, whether by buying Medicare coverage or via their private insurance. Williamson also is advocating for other changes to improve Americans’ health, such as large-scale change within the agricultural, environmental, and chemical industry.
More than half of the funds from healthcare have come from “health professionals” for Williamson, at $12,187, OpenSecrets reports.
17. Michael Bennet (D)
- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Healthcare contributions: $31,063
Why it matters: The Colorado senator has said he supports a public option, but doesn’t believe the US should get rid of private health insurance. He also recently revealed a plan to improve healthcare in rural parts of the US.
16. Andrew Yang (D)
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
Healthcare contributions: $49,522
Yang supports Medicare for All and believes in moving away from employer-based health insurance, which he says on his campaign website, “prevents economic mobility.” The Democratic candidate has received $20,645 from health professionals, according to OpenSecrets.
15. John Hickenlooper (D)
Healthcare contributions: $59,334
Why it matters: During a recent Democratic debate, the former Colorado governor criticized Medicare for All. He has previously said he supports universal healthcare and believes a more moderate system could achieve that.
Hickenlooper’s campaign has received just under $10,000 from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, according to Open Secrets.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Hickenlooper’s campaign said the former governor “has taken contributions from a wide swath of Americans, including everyday workers in the healthcare industry like doctors and nurses” and highlighted the differences between Hickenlooper’s health plan and that of Bernie Sanders.
“By contrast, Governor Hickenlooper’s plan would build upon Obamacare, expanding coverage, reducing costs, increasing competition, and mandating transparency in pricing. That’s how we get to near universal coverage, as we did in Colorado with nearly 95% of Coloradans covered,” the spokesperson said.
14. John Delaney (D)
Healthcare contributions: $63,845
Why it matters: The former representative for Maryland’s sixth district has been campaigning for the presidential election for the last two years.
Delaney’s healthcare plan, BetterCare, would guarantee coverage for everyone and seeks to expand on reforms in the Affordable Care Act. Delaney wants to keep private insurance as an option. According to Open Secrets, the presidential hopeful has taken $21,050 from health professionals and $20,550 from hospitals and nursing homes.
13. Jay Inslee (D)
Healthcare contributions: $81,642
Why it matters: The Washington governor, who has described climate change as the top priority of his candidacy, has said he supports a public option for health insurance. Getting rid of private health insurance is probably unnecessary, he has said.
Inslee’s campaign has received about $25,000 in contributions from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, according to an Open Secret analysis last month.
12. Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Healthcare contributions: $116,627
Why it matters: In May, the New York senator released a political reform plan to create “Clean Elections” in an attempt to end what she calls a “corrupting influence” of big donors and special interest groups in politics.
OpenSecrets reports that she received $18,700 from affiliates of US drug giant Pfizer. Sally Susman, a Pfizer executive, hosted Gillibrand at her home for a fundraising event, where tickets cost $1,000 to $2,700 each, CNBC reported at the time.
11. Tulsi Gabbard (D)
- Win McNamee/Getty Images
Healthcare contributions: $120,623
Why it matters: The Hawaii representative and combat veteran has said she supports expanding healthcare coverage through a public option, with Americans continuing to have access to private health insurance.
Gabbard has received about $28,000 in contributions from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, according to mid-July Open Secrets data.
10. Julian Castro (D)
Healthcare contributions: $122,684
Why it matters: Castro has been in politics for some time, serving as the nation’s housing secretary during President Barack Obama’s second term. Before announcing his presidential campaign, Castro said he’d disavow PAC money, and so far, has kept to his word.
On healthcare, the Texas politician supports Medicare for All, but would also allow for people to opt in or keep their private insurance. Most of Castro’s healthcare contributions have come from health professionals at $102,676, OpenSecrets reports.
9. Amy Klobuchar (D)
Healthcare contributions: $209,145
Why it matters: The three-term Minnesota senator has said she supports expanding health insurance to everyone through a plan like the current government programs Medicare or Medicaid. Klobuchar has also proposed a plan to bring down prescription drug prices for seniors.
Klobuchar has received more than $65,000 from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, according to mid-July data from Open Secrets, ranking her third among 2020 Democrats after Joe Biden and then Pete Buttigieg.
8. Beto O’Rourke (D)
Healthcare contributions: $255,214
Why it matters: O’Rourke launched his 2020 presidential campaign with a splash, raising more than $6 million on his first day in the race, but has experienced a drop in fundraising in the most recent quarter.
O’Rourke backs a more moderate healthcare model than some Democrats, called “Medicare for America.” The Texas politician would allow Americans to participate in Medicare or keep their existing private health insurance. Around half of the funding O’Rourke has received from the health sector comes from health professionals, who donated $127,863.
“Beto does not accept contributions from any PACs, corporations, or federally registered lobbyists in the health care industry or otherwise,” O’Rourke ‘s spokesperson Chris Evans said in a statement. “That commitment is in line with Beto’s leadership on campaign finance reform over many years including not taking any PAC money – corporate or otherwise – for years.”
The campaign said many of the health contributions are from individual health-care professionals.
“We’re grateful that nurses, doctors, and mental health providers across the country were close behind teachers when it came to the top contributor by occupation during Q2,” Evans said.
7. Cory Booker (D)
- Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Healthcare contributions: $304,734
Why it matters: Booker is a senator who represents New Jersey, which is home to many big pharmaceutical companies. That, and a 2017 vote against a Bernie Sanders bill intended to lower prescription drug prices, has given him a reputation for being friendly to Big Pharma.
He’s tried to shake that off as part of his 2020 presidential campaign, STAT News reported earlier this year. On the policy side, Booker has said he supports Medicare for All.
Open Secrets data from mid-July shows that Booker has received about $35,000 from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.
A Booker campaign spokeswoman said by email that the campaign contribution figures don’t tell the real story.
“Since early 2017, Cory Booker has rejected campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies – not only their corporate and industry PACs, but also from their C-suite executives and board chairs. His presidential campaign rejects these contributions too, and we carefully review our FEC filings to ensure we’re abiding by this pledge,” the spokeswoman, Sabrina Singh, said by email.
Singh also criticized Open Secrets, saying it does not disclose how contributions are categorized and “doesn’t distinguish between rank-and-file workers and corporate leadership.” Using the primary source that Open Secrets relies on, Federal Election Commission reports, would instead show “how seriously we take our commitment to our pledge,” Singh said.
6. Elizabeth Warren (D)
- Jonathan Bachman/Reuters
Healthcare Contributions: $344,001
Why it matters: The Massachusetts senator, one of the first to announce her candidacy for the 2020 presidential race, has run on a progressive platform featuring policies on breaking up big tech companies, student debt relief, and a wealth tax for the ultra-rich.
Warren has said she supports the Medicare for All model and she is a co-sponsor on a single-payer bill. She has been vocal about others areas of healthcare, too, calling to send some executives to jail for their role in the opioid crisis. According to OpenSecrets, Warren has received $169,043 from health professionals.
“Elizabeth is taking no money from PACs, lobbyists, or executives of health insurance companies and Big Pharma,” a spokesperson for Warren’s campaign said in a statement to Business Insider. “She isn’t taking any PAC money or federal lobbyist money or doing high dollar fundraisers and call-time with wealthy donors. “
5. Bernie Sanders (D)
- Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Healthcare contributions: $359,986
Why it matters: This election season, Bernie Sanders has been a leading voice about how the US healthcare system should change. His “Medicare for All” plan made healthcare a key issue that’s been debated fiercely among the many Democratic candidates. And Sanders started a new round of scrutiny on where candidate donations come from.
Sanders ranks fifth among 2020 candidates who have taken the most in donations from the healthcare industry.
According to Open Secrets data from mid-July, Sanders’s campaign has accepted nearly $37,000 from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, though his campaign has said it will return prior contributions that conflict with his pledge.
A Sanders campaign spokeswoman noted in a statement to Business Insider that the candidate’s pledge doesn’t apply to rank-and-file workers employed by health insurance or pharmaceutical companies, “many of whom directly feel the pain of the healthcare industry’s relentless greed.”
“So, to be as clear as possible, we’re incredibly proud to have the support of nurses, doctors, and pharmacy technicians in our fight to make health care a human right and bring about the transformative change this country needs,” she said.
4. Joe Biden (D)
Healthcare contributions: $462,335
Why it matters: The former vice-president announced his candidacy well after other major contenders, but has made considerable headway in his campaign and is a frontrunner in the race.
Biden supports a healthcare plan that builds on the Affordable Care Act, including introducing a public option. He is against Medicare for All, calling the plan too costly.
Biden has pledged to reject donations from lobbyists and corporate PACs.
According to OpenSecrets, Biden has received $87,126 from pharmaceutical and health product company affiliates, and $239,015 from health professionals.
3. Kamala Harris (D)
- Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images
Healthcare contributions: $517,430
Why it matters: For the California senator and former California attorney general, healthcare “has been a problem area” throughout the campaign, Vox reported.
Harris has come out in support of Medicare for All, but has been criticized for shifting her stance on it. More recently, Harris has said that she stands for a system where private health insurance would still exist as an option.
Harris’s campaign has taken roughly $55,000 in donations tied to the health insurance and pharmaceuticals industries, according to OpenSecrets.
2. Pete Buttigieg (D)
- Paras Griffin/Getty
Healthcare contributions: $548,014
Why it matters: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana has managed to accrue funding from small and large donors, with healthcare donations being one of his biggest contributors.
Buttigieg was called out earlier in the race for taking money from lobbyists, but later said he wouldn’t take such donations and gave back money. According to an Open Secrets analysis from mid-July, Buttigieg has taken about $93,954 from pharmaceutical and health insurance affiliates.
1. President Donald Trump (R)
Healthcare contributions: $1.4 million
Why it matters: It’s perhaps no surprise that President Donald Trump, as the incumbent seeking re-election in 2020, has received the most in donations from the healthcare sector. Healthcare has been a focus of President Trump’s administration, though he’s struggled to fulfill key promises like repealing the Affordable Care Act and lowering prescription drug prices
When Trump ran for president in 2016, US drug prices were a hot topic, and not long after winning the election he said he would bring them down.
Since his win, the Trump administration put forth health proposals intended to do just that and increase transparency around healthcare costs consumers face, though many have failed to advance, faced challenges, or could take years to pan out.
The healthcare sector also contributed to Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election: nearly $4.9 million by the end.