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Health firms boost Patrick

Donate $52,250 to governor’s federal PAC

Governor Deval Patrick’s federal political action committee collected at least $52,250 from health care interests from July through December, just as Beacon Hill was gearing up for a major fight over how to overhaul payments in the multibillion-dollar industry.

The total was collected from just 18 donors and committees and makes up a significant portion of the PAC’s overall fund-raising tally for the latest sixth-month reporting period, which totaled $301,561.

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Many of the individuals and companies who contributed have a lot at stake in the current debate, including executives affiliated with Partners Healthcare, the state’s largest hospital network, and Shields Health Care. The governor is hoping to change the way Massachusetts patients and insurers pay for medical care, from the current fee-for-service plan to a global-payment system, in which providers would have a fixed budget to care for each patient.

Health care is the state’s largest industry, and any shift in its economic underpinnings would have broad impacts.

The donors gave an average of $2,750 each, well above the $500 limit for state political campaigns. The federal PAC is allowed to accept donations of up to $5,000.

Patrick uses the committee, called Together PAC, to pay for travel and other expenses associated with his work as a national spokesman for President Obama’s reelection campaign and to encourage Democratic activism in other states. In his second term, the governor has been trying to raise his profile, which could enhance his career prospects in either politics or the private sector when he leaves office.

Patrick has a policy against accepting donations from casino interests, but he has raised no such bar to contributions from the health care industry, where there is equal money to be gained or lost depending on regulations and laws enacted by the state.

The ban on casino money is “out of an abundance of caution and in light of significant public sensitivities relative to the future of gaming in the Commonwealth,’’ according to the executive director of his PAC, Alex Goldstein.

Goldstein said “contributions have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on administration policies.’’

He pointed to Patrick’s largely successful efforts, begun in 2010, to cap health premium increases, which angered many insurance companies, and to the cost-containment legislation he proposed last year, which is still awaiting action in the Legislature.

“The governor has been a national leader in his efforts to protect small businesses and working families from rising health care costs,’’ Goldstein said in a statement.

But several of the health care companies who donated to Patrick are closely watching the debate on Beacon Hill.

Partners Healthcare could face pressure on its high-cost structure or even government rate caps, depending on what changes are made. Its president and chief executive officer, Dr. Gary L. Gottlieb, contributed $5,000, the maximum allowed under federal law. Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel - president of Brigham and Women’s, a Partners hospital - also donated $5,000, as did Jack Connors, chairman of the Partners board.

Connors said he hosted a Boston fund-raiser for Patrick Sept. 29 that included a variety of professionals, including car dealers, developers, and health care executives. Connors, a major Democratic donor and fund-raiser, said he supports Patrick’s PAC because of the governor’s personal integrity and his mission to help build the party around the country.

“My motivation has nothing to do with health care,’’ Connors said. “I would say the governor and I respectfully disagree’’ on health care policy. Connors said he favors less regulation than Patrick.

Gottlieb and Nabel said in e-mails to the Globe that they gave because they support Patrick. Neither would elaborate when asked in a follow-up e-mail whether members of the industry are trying to ensure access. Gottlieb is well acquainted with the governor. Last year, he participated in Patrick’s mission to Israel.

Thomas Shields Sr. and Thomas Shields Jr., who fill the roles of chief executive officer and president of Shields Health Care, also gave $5,000 each. Their Quincy-based company, which operates magnetic resonance imaging machines, could gain from a global payment system if doctors are encouraged to refer more patients to outpatient facilities that traditionally charge less for MRIs.

Messages left with the Shieldses’ assistant were not returned.

Executives and the political committee for Maximus Inc. donated a total of $9,000. The company, based in Reston, Va., won a contract with the state in 2005, during Governor Mitt Romney’s administration, to provide services for MassHealth, the state’s low-income health program. The services include operation of MassHealth’s call center.

In the 2011 budget year, the contract was worth $30 million, paid half with state and half with federal funding, according to Jennifer Kritz, communications director of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

A spokeswoman said Maximus executives would not comment for this article.

Jose Almeida - president and chief executive officer of Covidien, a medical supply company with its US headquarters in Mansfield - also gave the maximum $5,000 contribution. Almeida said through a spokeswoman that he supports the governor for personal reasons.

Patrick’s PAC raised a total of $575,741 in 2011.

Senator Bruce E. Tarr, the Republican leader from Gloucester, criticized Patrick for using the power of his office to help Obama’s reelection campaign.

“The governor has successfully developed a conduit for people seeking his good will,’’ Tarr said.

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.
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