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Blue Cross is top donor in Florida politics but its investment has produced mixed results

Health insurance giant Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida gave more money to Florida campaigns than any other single entity in the 2012 election cycle — $4.8 million — and the company is already the largest contributor in the current cycle, a Herald/Times analysis has found.

Company officials say the contributions, which include $867,000 sent to Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature since January, are an investment in like-minded candidates as Blue Cross works towards implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

But when it comes to the company’s top priority — the expansion of Medicaid to cover one million more uninsured Floridians — the health care giant’s out-sized investment has fallen flat.

Legislators walked away from extending Medicaid coverage to Florida residents at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level after House leaders fiercely resisted the option. Blue Cross and Blue Shield, doing business as Florida Blue, contracts with the state to run a Medicaid managed care program, which was expected to get $50 billion over 10 years through Medicaid expansion.

“With regard to Medicaid, we do have a difference of opinion with a lot of the folks we have supported in the past,’’ said Jason Altmire, vice president of public policy government and community affairs for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, and a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania. He said the company hopes to come back next session and renew the pitch for Medicaid expansion.

But Blue Cross and Blue Shield is not the only company to invest heavily in the political process, only to have its top legislative priority thwarted in the past year, according to the Herald/Times analysis.

Hospitals, nursing homes, and the ill-fated Internet cafe industry, all made heavy investments in the governor and legislators this year but went home empty.

Meanwhile, other large donors, such as U.S. Sugar, the Florida Optometry Association and the Florida Medical Association saw their political investments pay off as lawmakers passed long-sought legislation to make it easier for them to do business in Florida. More here. Here's the top 10 lists for the first two quarters of this cycle and the 2012 cycle:


2012 Election Cycle

(Contribution period Jan. 1, 2011- Dec. 31, 2012)

1. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida: $4.8 million

2. Florida and U.S. Chamber: $3.9 million

3. Disney: $2.7 million

4. Florida Power & Light: $2.6 million

5. U.S. Sugar Corp.: $2.4 million

6. Florida Education Association: $2.3 million

7. Progress Energy Service: $1.8 million

8. TECO Energy Inc.: $1.5 million

9. Florida Medical Association: $1.3 million

10. AT&T: $1.8 million

2014 Election Cycle

(Contribution period Jan. 1, 2013 – June 30, 2013)

1. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida: $867,300

2. Florida Power & Light: $717,400

3. Publix Super Markets: $665,500

4. Florida Realtors: $535,400

5. William L. Edwards Trust: $500,000

6. U.S. Sugar Corp.: $486,700

7. Progress Energy: $362,000

8. Disney: $358,000

9. The Geo Group: $350,000

10. Florida Crystals Corp.: $313,000

Source: Florida Division of Elections