Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Drug lobby comes out a big winner in health care reform: The influence game

Drug lobby comes out a big winner in health care reform: The influence game; AP

Chalk one up for the pharmaceutical lobby.

The U.S. drug industry fended off price curbs and other hefty restrictions in President Barack Obama's health care law even as it prepares for plenty of new business when an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans gain health coverage.

To be sure, the law also levies taxes and imposes other costs on pharmaceutical companies, leaving its final impact on the industry's bottom line uncertain. A recent analysis by Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street firm, suggests the overhaul could mean "a manageable hit" of tens of billions of dollars over the coming decade while bolstering the value of drug-company stocks. Others expect profits, not losses, of the same magnitude.

Either way, pharmaceutical lobbyists won new federal policies they coveted and set a trajectory for long-term industry growth. Privately, several of them say their biggest triumph was heading off Democrats led by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who wanted even more money from their industry to finance the health care system's expansion. ...

As Obama's health care drive began last year, drugmakers agreed with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and White House officials to support the effort. In exchange, the companies volunteered $80 billion in 10-year savings for the health care changes, and backed it up with an expensive TV ad campaign pushing Obama's proposal. ...

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus, said in an interview last week that as a trade-off for rolling back that expansion, the drug industry agreed to provide an additional $10 billion over a decade to help close the gap in Medicare coverage.

As for what Democrats gained from their ally, the industry and coalitions it joined spent about $67 million on supportive TV ads since the beginning of 2009, according to Evan Tracey, president of Kantar CMAG, which tracks political ads. That made it one of the biggest players in an airwaves battle that saw all sides spend $220 million.

Pharmaceutical interests spent $188 million lobbying last year, more than all but a handful of industry sectors, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. They employed an army of 1,105 lobbyists.

And after years of funneling most of its campaign contributions to Republicans, the industry has favored Democrats with 56 percent of the $5 million it has handed candidates so far this year. The biggest recipient, by far, of the industry's 2008 election cycle contributions of $13.8 million was Obama, who received $1.2 million for his presidential campaign.
Comment: The 17th gave us "democracy?" Me thinks it made a lot of Senators rich.

No comments: