WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are releasing emails and documents that shed light on dealings between the White House and the drug industry as President Barack Obama maneuvered to move his health care overhaul through Congress.
The materials released Thursday cover a critical period in the summer of 2009 when the legislation was bogging down in Congress. An $80-billion financial commitment by the drug companies gave Obama some momentum.
The deal included better prescription coverage for Medicare recipients. Broad outlines were known at the time.
Drug makers succeeded in avoiding new requirements to pay rebates to the government for Medicare drugs. Ultimately, they were also able to preserve an existing ban against patients importing lower-priced medications from overseas.
The powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee obtained the emails from industry.
Memo from the Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Members (executive summary obtained by BenefitsPro):
- The White House negotiated a deal with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) in mid-June 2009. After attempting to secure a commitment from the industry for $100 billion in payment cuts, eventually the White House settled for approximately $80 billion in payment reductions through expanded and increased Medicaid rebates and a new health reform fee. PhRMA also had direct input into the actual legislative policies that produced the $80 billion, including the proposal for closing the Part D doughnut hole.
- Under the deal, “the White House and Senator Baucus agreed” that neither price controls nor a government-run Medicare Part D plan would become law, the White House would oppose price controls on dual eligible beneficiaries, and that savings from a follow-on biologics proposal would be applied to the total $80 billion commitment.
- White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle told PhRMA’s chief lobbyist for negotiating the deal that the White House would oppose new drug importation policies because of “how constructive” PhRMA had been. According to PhRMA’s lobbyist, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina told him that the “WH is working on some very explicit language on importation to kill it in health reform.”
- According to internal e-mails, PhRMA’s chief lobbyist believed the White House eventually cut a deal with the pharmaceutical industry during the week of June 20, 2009, because the White House had suffered a bad week politically.
- Despite countless promises of televised negotiations and transparent government, the White House met in private with PhRMA representatives and drug company CEOs in July 2009, “to look the other side in the eye and shake their hand on whatever deal we work out.”
- The White House was not above threatening PhRMA to get its way. According to PhRMA’s chief lobbyist, the White House was going to have President Obama call for rebating all of Medicare Part D, a policy PhRMA staunchly opposed, in his Weekly Radio Address unless PhRMA cut a deal with the White House to support health reform.