AP Examines Low-Cost Lobbying Effort For Birthing Centers

The Associated Press/The Boston Globe reports on Karen Fennell, a lobbyist who lacks the typical "fat expense account and clients paying six-figure fees," but has still managed to secure "some coveted federal money" for her clients: birthing centers. "How she did it is a case study in how Washington's influence game can work, even for those without bottomless checkbooks. She cultivated key allies in Congress, crafted an argument that aligns with the prevailing political winds, and represents a constituency no lawmaker could shun: mothers-to-be."

Birthing centers "mainly serve pregnant women who are too poor or too far away from a hospital to have any other option for prenatal care or delivering their babies." Fennell "lacks the money to make hefty campaign donations," but "she has another financial pitch: an official opinion from congressional budgeteers that says her proposal will actually save the government cash."

"Fennell, who's lobbied on behalf of the American Association of Birth Centers to make sure that Medicaid pays them back, appears to be winning. Three House committees have approved measures that would allow the reimbursement, and a Senate measure by the Finance Committee chairman, Max Baucus, would require it" (Davis, 9/29).

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