Thursday, August 06, 2009

White House deep in the muck with drug makers

A former GOP representative, Billy Tauzin, has blown the cover on a back door deal between the Obama administration and big pharma. I wonder how big pharma feels about him going public – is he serving pharma or the GOP?

Whatever his motivations, this deal stinks. It’s Chicago politics. If Bush did something like this Dems like me would have been all over him. I don’t have the heart do to the deed myself, but I’ll look for a good right wing rant to link to. Emphases mine.

White House Affirms Deal on Drug Cost -

Pressed by industry lobbyists, White House officials on Wednesday assured drug makers that the administration stood by a behind-the-scenes deal to block any Congressional effort to extract cost savings from them beyond an agreed-upon $80 billion.

Drug industry lobbyists reacted with alarm this week to a House health care overhaul measure that would allow the government to negotiate drug prices and demand additional rebates from drug manufacturers.

In response, the industry successfully demanded that the White House explicitly acknowledge for the first time that it had committed to protect drug makers from bearing further costs in the overhaul. The Obama administration had never spelled out the details of the agreement.

“We were assured: ‘We need somebody to come in first. If you come in first, you will have a rock-solid deal,’ ” Billy Tauzin, the former Republican House member from Louisiana who now leads the pharmaceutical trade group, said Wednesday. “Who is ever going to go into a deal with the White House again if they don’t keep their word? You are just going to duke it out instead.”

A deputy White House chief of staff, Jim Messina, confirmed Mr. Tauzin’s account of the deal in an e-mail message on Wednesday night.

The president encouraged this approach,” Mr. Messina wrote. “He wanted to bring all the parties to the table to discuss health insurance reform.”…

.. In an interview on Wednesday, Representative Raul M. Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat who is co-chairman of the House progressive caucus, called Mr. Tauzin’s comments “disturbing.”

“We have all been focused on the debate in Congress, but perhaps the deal has already been cut,” Mr. Grijalva said. “That would put us in the untenable position of trying to scuttle it.”

He added: “It is a pivotal issue not just about health care. Are industry groups going to be the ones at the table who get the first big piece of the pie and we just fight over the crust?”..

… But as the debate has heated up over the last two weeks, Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats have signaled that they value some of its industry enemies-turned-friends more than others. Drug makers have been elevated to a seat of honor at the negotiating table, while insurers have been pushed away…

… The drug industry trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also opposes a public insurance plan. But its lobbyists acknowledge privately that they have no intention of fighting it, in part because their agreement with the White House provides them other safeguards.

Mr. Tauzin said the administration had approached him to negotiate. “They wanted a big player to come in and set the bar for everybody else,” he said. He said the White House had directed him to negotiate with Senator Max Baucus, the business-friendly Montana Democrat who leads the Senate Finance Committee.

Mr. Tauzin said the White House had tracked the negotiations throughout, assenting to decisions to move away from ideas like the government negotiation of prices or the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada. The $80 billion in savings would be over a 10-year period. “80 billion is the max, no more or less,” he said. “Adding other stuff changes the deal.”

After reaching an agreement with Mr. Baucus, Mr. Tauzin said, he met twice at the White House with Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff; Mr. Messina, his deputy; and Nancy-Ann DeParle, the aide overseeing the health care overhaul, to confirm the administration’s support for the terms.

“They blessed the deal,” Mr. Tauzin said. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House was not bound by any industry deals with the Senate or the White House.

But, Mr. Tauzin said, “as far we are concerned, that is a done deal.” He said, “It’s up to the White House and Senator Baucus to follow through.”

As for the administration’s recent break with the insurance industry, Mr. Tauzin said, “The insurers never made any deal.”

Tauzin is certainly plainspoken.

I wonder how Krugman and Reich are going to respond to this one.

Anyone know of a right wing rant attacking this corrupt deal that I can link to?

Update 8/9/09: Reich responds - this is bad for democracy.

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