TBD

TBD on Ning

The White House Deal With Big Pharma Undermines Democracy

Dear Friends,

I realize that you may feel like I am bombarding you with information, but Health Care reform, the way Obama, Pelosi, Waxman, Reid, and Emanuel are approaching it, places this country at a critical cross roads in term of completely redefining the role of the Federal Government in our lives. Here's another point of view presented by
Mr Robert Reich:


Obama's Agreement with Big Pharma May Help Healthcare Reform Pass, but it May Also Mean Higher Drug
Prices for You

by Robert Reich

Aug. 10, 2009 |

I'm a strong supporter of universal health insurance, and a fan of the Obama administration. But I'm appalled by the deal the White House has made with the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying arm to buy their support.

Last week, after being reported in the Los Angeles Times, the White House confirmed it has promised Big Pharma that any healthcare legislation will bar the government from using its huge purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. That's basically the same deal George W. Bush struck in getting the Medicare drug benefit, and it's proven a bonanza for the drug industry. A continuation will be an even larger bonanza, given all the boomers who will be enrolling in Medicare over the next decade. And it will be a gold mine if the deal extends to Medicaid, which will be expanded under most versions of the healthcare bills now emerging from Congress, and to any public option that might be included. (We don't know how far the deal extends beyond Medicare because its details haven't been made public.)

Let me remind you: Any bonanza for the drug industry means higher healthcare costs for the rest of us, which is one reason why critics of the emerging healthcare plans, including the Congressional Budget Office, are so worried about their failure to adequately stem future healthcare costs. To be sure, as part of its deal with the White House, Big Pharma apparently has promised to cut future drug costs by $80 billion. But neither the industry nor the White House nor any congressional committee has announced exactly where the $80 billion in savings will show up nor how this portion of the deal will be enforced. In any event, you can bet that the bonanza Big Pharma will reap far exceeds $80 billion. Otherwise, why would it have agreed?

In return, Big Pharma isn't just supporting universal healthcare. It's also spending lots of money on TV and radio advertising in support. Sunday's New York Times reports that Big Pharma has budgeted $150 million for TV ads promoting universal health insurance, starting this August (that's more money than John McCain spent on TV advertising in last year's presidential campaign), after having already spent a bundle through advocacy groups like Healthy Economies Now and Families USA.

I want universal health insurance. And having had a front-row seat in 1994 when Big Pharma and the rest of the health-industry complex went to battle against it, I can tell you firsthand how big and effective the onslaught can be. So I appreciate Big Pharma's support this time around, and I like it that the industry is doing the reverse of what it did last time, and airing ads to persuade the public of the rightness of the White House's effort.

But I also care about democracy, and the deal between Big Pharma and the White House frankly worries me. It's bad enough when industry lobbyists extract concessions from members of Congress, which happens all the time. But when an industry gets secret concessions out of the White House in return for a promise to lend the industry's support to a key piece of legislation, we're in big trouble. That's called extortion: An industry is using its capacity to threaten or prevent legislation as a means of altering that legislation for its own benefit. And it's doing so at the highest reaches of our government, in the office of the president.

When the industry support comes with an industry-sponsored ad campaign in favor of that legislation, the threat to democracy is even greater. Citizens end up paying for advertisements designed to persuade them that the legislation is in their interest. In this case, those payments come in the form of drug prices that will be higher than otherwise, stretching years into the future.

I don't want to be puritanical about all this. Politics is a rough game in which means and ends often get mixed and melded. Perhaps the White House deal with Big Pharma is a necessary step to get anything resembling universal health insurance. But if that's the case, our democracy is in terrible shape. How soon until big industries and their Washington lobbyists have become so politically powerful that secret White House-industry deals like this are prerequisites to any important legislation? When will it become standard practice that such deals come with hundreds of millions of dollars of industry-sponsored TV advertising designed to persuade the public that the legislation is in the public's interest? (Any Democrats and progressives who might be reading this should ask themselves how they'll feel when a Republican White House cuts such deals to advance its own legislative priorities.)

We're on a precarious road -- and wherever it leads, it's not toward democracy.

Views: 6

Tags: care, health, reform

Comment

You need to be a member of TBD to add comments!

Join TBD

Comment by Dazzling Zoomer Gal Diana on August 22, 2009 at 5:03pm
I capish. thanks PD. I for one appreciate the clarification, and the further explanation - which seemed much needed here.
Comment by Dazzling Zoomer Gal Diana on August 22, 2009 at 12:06pm
If I may (and Pacis Dream - please correct me if I'm wrong), but it would seem to me that if one takes the time to read PAST blogs written by Mr. Reich, (I found his Nov. '08 to be particularly prescient) one will have a better overview of the man's intellectual and political metal and thrust. I (humbly) suggest that this be Pacis Dream's point. At least - this is how I have interpreted his comment "To really understand what he's about (Reich) , visit his blog, and read for yourselves."
Comment by OCNaturalDoc on August 22, 2009 at 10:44am
yes, and it goes to his blog.
the address you gave doesn't go anywhere.
Comment by OCNaturalDoc on August 22, 2009 at 1:22am
here's the link to the blog:
http://robertreich.blogspot.com/2009/08/white-houses-deal-with-big-...
aside from comments, what's the difference?
Comment by Dazzling Zoomer Gal Diana on August 22, 2009 at 12:57am
Pacis Dream wrote : last line: "To really understand what he's about (Reich) , visit his blog, and read for yourselves."
He (PD) has the point quite to hand.
Comment by OCNaturalDoc on August 21, 2009 at 11:23pm
pacis dream wrote:
"Ironically, it seems as if the blogger, and the right-wing blogs, missed Reich's point: "Perhaps the White House deal with Big Pharma is a necessary step to get anything resembling universal health insurance. But if that's the case, our democracy is in terrible shape. How soon until big industries and their Washington lobbyists have become so politically powerful that secret White House-industry deals like this are prerequisites to any important legislation?"

looks like you missed the point, pacis---"the blogger" here IS robert reich! he wrote all of it, not me.
Comment by Dazzling Zoomer Gal Diana on August 21, 2009 at 11:09pm
Pacis Dream nailed it.
Comment by Vernon Windsor on August 21, 2009 at 10:32am
Actually, it leads exactly to democracy. Democracy is the very reason we're on this road. You are welcome to say the sky is falling, but that does not make it so.
Comment by Gary Freedman on August 21, 2009 at 9:37am
Looks like you have some critics on TBD. Listen, I like your blog posts. They're informative and useful. Keep blogging. I'm sure you have a dedicated audience.
Comment by Maggie Mae on August 21, 2009 at 9:17am
Not to worry, you're flooding us with MISINFORMATION, so we can see right thru it.

Badge

Loading…

© 2019   Created by Aggie.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service