The New York Times confirms today that when it came to fixing the problems with the American health care system, the Obama administration’s first goal was not to insure the uninsured, or reduce waste, or curtail defensive medicine. It was to make a deal. And now – having made a deal – the White House is willing to go to the wall to protect its partners – even if the partner is as distasteful as America’s pharmaceutical companies:
“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.”
The new attention to the agreement could prove embarrassing to the White House, which has sought to keep lobbyists at a distance, including by refusing to hire them to work in the administration…
“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?…”
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.”
Up until recently, Democrats have attacked the drug companies more than they did insurers. You’ll recall the horrible things drug companies have done: fought patent reform, charged more for drugs in the U.S. than they do elsewhere, charge the proverbial arm and leg for miracle drugs. And the only defense they have mounted is that they spend billions and billions on drugs that never pan out, so when they have a success, they need to recoup losses. It looks like that defense is now accepted – because the drug companies cut a deal. The insurers aren’t so lucky.
You see, it’s nothing personal; it’s strictly business. if you’re looking for a useful analogy, think of the Godfather. There aren’t any degrees of bad guys; it’s just a bunch of families trying to get by. Don Obama is alllied with Don Tauzin because the two of them came to an understanding. And now the two of them can work together to wipe out the insurer family. If the insurers had come to kiss the ring first, they could have been feasting like the drug companies. Instead, they’re on the menu.
The truly pathetic part is that the White House pretends they’re doing all this for you.