On June 3, 2009, one of the drug industries lobbyists e-mailed Nancy-Ann DeParle, the president’s top health care adviser, with concerns about Obama’s liberals allies and their proposal intended to bring down medicine prices.
Ms. DeParle sent a message back reassuring the lobbyist that she and other top officials had “made decision, based on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation on the bill.”
President Obama, who had promised to air healthcare reform negotiations on C-Span, agreed behind closed doors to abandon support for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices. He chose to side with an industry he had vilified on the campaign trail the year before over the middle class and poor’s best interests.
“There was no way we had the votes in either the House or the Senate if PhRMA was opposed — period,” said a senior Democratic official involved in the talks, referring to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry trade group.
Republicans see the deal as hypocritical. “He said it was going to be the most open and honest and transparent administration ever and lobbyists won’t be drafting the bills,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess of Texas, one of the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that is examining the deal. “Then when it came time, the door closed, the lobbyists came in and the bills were written.”
“Republicans trumpeting these e-mails is like a fox complaining someone else raided the chicken coop,” said Robert Reich, the former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton. “Sad to say, it’s called politics in an era when big corporations have an effective veto over major legislation affecting them and when the G.O.P. is usually the beneficiary. In this instance, the G.O.P. was outfoxed. Who are they to complain?”
Was it the GOP that was outfoxed or was it the American people?
In a statement, PhRMA said that its interactions with Mr. Obama’s White House were part of its mission to “ensure patient access” to quality medicine and to advance medical progress.
“Before, during and since the health care debate, PhRMA engaged with Congress and the administration to advance these priorities,” said Matthew Bennett, the group’s senior vice president.
When campaigning for president, Obama specifically singled out the power of the pharmaceutical industry and its chief lobbyist, former Representative Billy Tauzin, a Democrat-turned-Republican from Louisiana, as examples of what he wanted to change.
“The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies,” Mr. Obama said in a campaign advertisement, referring to then President Bush’s 2003 legislation. “And you know what? The chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year.
“Imagine that,” Mr. Obama continued. “That’s an example of the same old game playing in Washington. You know, I don’t want to learn how to play the game better. I want to put an end to the game playing.”
So candidate Obama was against President Bush not allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower costs, but President Obama killed a proposal that would have lowered the cost of medicine? Imagine that.