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Friday, December 01, 2006

Democrats versus Drug Companies

Robert Reich wonders if Democrats will be able to stand up to Big Pharma and allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices with drug companies:

A Test Case for the Dems: Big Pharma or Medicare Bargaining for Lower Drug Prices, by Robert Reich: When I worked in Washington, the biggest lobby – after Big Oil, and the big military contractors – was the big pharmaceutical companies – Big Pharma. Early in the Bush administration Big Pharma pushed the new Medicare drug benefit through Congress, releasing a $600 billion dollar gusher in their direction. The bill included a guarantee that Medicare wouldn’t use its huge bargaining leverage to negotiate lower prices with the drug companies – an extra bonus. If this isn’t corporate welfare, I don’t know what is.

Nancy Pelosi has announced that one of the Dems first priorities ("first hundred hours") would be to end this ban and have Medicare use its bargaining clout to get lower drug prices for seniors. But Big Pharma is already on the attack. ...

The only thing that might stop the new Congress from going through with this sensible plan is huge bargaining power of a different kind. I'm talking now about politics. Because when it comes to campaign contributions and Washington lobbyists, Big Pharma has more bargaining clout than almost anyone. It has already lined up former Democratic congressmen and officeholders to lobby their old colleagues. And it’s showering the Hill with money. Already Max Baucus, the upcoming head of the Senate Finance Committee, is expressing doubts about the new Democratic plan.

Watch this one closely. Will Pelosi pull it off in the "first hundred hours?" This will be a major test case of whether Dems are willing to stand up to one of the truly powerful Washington lobbies.

    Posted by on Friday, December 1, 2006 at 12:06 AM in Economics, Health Care, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (8)

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