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Anatomy of the White House’s Big Pharma Healthcare Deal

Last summer, I heard from a source close to the Obama Administration that the public option was mostly a bargaining tool and that the Obama Administration would only use it in order to pass healthcare reform. Translation: the Obama Administration never supported a public option. While the Obama Administration has never admitted as much, many pundits in the media were aware that this was the likely negotiating tactic. (See Was a Public Plan Ever Really in the Cards? : CJR)

So when I subsequently learned that Big Pharma had been bought off in order to get the healthcare bill passed (see White House Affirms Deal on Drug Cost – NYTimes.com), this new tidbit fit very much into the overall negotiating style – which was formed to prevent a repeat of the Hillarycare fiasco in 1994 in my opinion.

I think the following video on the White House connection with the pharmaceutical lobby makes for interesting viewing because it ties up some loose ends from the big pharma deal mentioned above via Billy Tauzin, a former Louisiana Congressman and head of PhRMA, a pharmaceutical company lobby group.  It definitely gives one a sense of how big business is able to finesse the system in Washington.

 

The related post gives a lot more detail.

More than a million spectators gathered before the Capitol on a frosty January afternoon to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, who promised in his campaign to change Washington’s mercenary culture of lobbyists, special interest influence and backroom deals. But within a few months of being sworn in, the President and his top aides were sitting down with leaders from the pharmaceutical industry to hash out a deal that they thought would make health care reform possible.

Over the following months, pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and executives met with top White House aides dozens of times to hammer out a deal that would secure industry support for the administration’s health care reform agenda in exchange for the White House abandoning key elements of the president’s promises to reform the pharmaceutical industry. They flooded Congress with campaign contributions, and hired dozens of former Capitol Hill insiders to push their case. How they did it—pieced together from news accounts, disclosure forms including lobbying reports and Federal Election Commission records, White House visitor logs and the schedule Sen. Max Baucus releases voluntarily—is a testament to how ingrained the grip of special interests remains in Washington…

On March 5, the White House held a meeting with major health care industry leaders to try to bring them to the table and see what could be done to gain their support. In attendance were Billy Tauzin, president, CEO and top lobbyist for PhRMA, Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler, America’s Health Care Plans (AHIP) Chairman Karen Ignani, Tom Donohue of the Chamber of Commerce and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations’ Risa Lavizzo-Mourey. A day before the White House meeting Tauzin appeared on CNBC touting health care reform and promising to work closely with the Obama administration. In the interview he touted it as an “optimistic plan”, acknowledging that the industry did have a few problems but was glad to have a chance to discuss these. Some were caught dumb-founded by this apparent change of heart on behalf of an industry long adverse to health care reforms.

We all know what was behind the change of heart now: Big Pharma cut a deal favorable to their interests with the Obama White House.

So, my question to you is this: is this how government should work – because, right now, that’s how government does work?

Much more at the link below.

The Legacy of Billy Tauzin: The White House-PhRMA Deal – Sunlight Foundation

See also Another Team Obama Present to Corporate America: Health “Reform” Bill Favors Big Pharma Over Generics from Naked Capitalism

About 

Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.