White House Deal With Drug Industry Sparks Democratic Revolt
Congressional Democrats are challenging the Obama administration's deal with the pharmaceutical industry to limit how much it would cut prices to contribute to a health care overhaul.
NPR reports: "The White House, faced with flaring tempers at town hall meetings around the country, is taking sides in an emerging fight between lawmakers in Washington, supporting the Senate and the drug industry against House Democrats. ... At Thursday's White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs defended the agreement between the Senate panel and PhRMA. Under the deal, drug companies will offer discounts to seniors who exhaust their first round of benefits under Medicare's prescription drug program."
NPR reports: "That deal didn't work for House Democrats, however. Conservative Blue Dogs threatened to vote against the bill unless it costs the government less. Liberals, however, were afraid that consumers would suffer from the cuts the Blue Dogs forced. So, they looked for another way to find savings, settling on the drug industry. The bill approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee would, for the first time, allow the government to directly negotiate drug prices for seniors on Medicare. It would also allow the government to develop a specific list of approved drugs under a new public plan that would be available to some people under the age of 65. ... The changes made by the House infuriated PhRMA, which thought it had a deal and wouldn't be asked to contribute beyond the $80 billion [over 10 years] it already pledged. The White House agreed" (Rovner, 8/6).
The New York Times: "A spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she stood by her position that the House was not bound by any such agreement. ... Representative Henry A. Waxman, the California Democrat who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee and helped write the House health care bill, vowed to fight the White House, asserting that it was conceding too much to the powerful drug industry lobby, PhRMA. ... Alarmed at the reports of the deal, Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat who has championed such drug price negotiations, said he had pressed the issue in a private meeting with Jim Messina, a White House deputy chief of staff involved in the talks, and came away reassured that there was no such agreement barring a push for the government negotiation of drug prices" (Kirkpatrick, 8/6).
Bloomberg reports: "The Obama administration told Democratic senators that its agreement with drugmakers doesn't bar Congress from requiring the industry to absorb further cuts in government spending on drugs, Senator Dick Durbin said" (Rowley, 8/6).
TIME reports: "It was only a few years ago that an up-and-coming member of the House Democratic leadership pointed to a cozy arrangement in the Republican-written Medicare prescription-drug program as a symptom of everything wrong with Washington. The 2003 bill barred the government from negotiating for lower drug prices for its 43 million Medicare recipients. 'Direct negotiation for lower prescription-drug prices is directly related to our lobbying and ethics reform legislation,' Rahm Emanuel, then the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, told the New York Times in January 2007. Both were needed, he said, 'to make sure that special interests do not control what happens in Congress.' The Medicare bill passed the House but died in the Senate. Emanuel is now chief of staff in a White House that badly needs the drug industry as an ally in its drive to overhaul the health-care system" (Tumulty, 8/7).