Sickening: Medicare Part D Lawmakers and Aides Resurface as Lobbyists to Influence Health Reform

October 21, 2009

(ChattahBox)—ProPublica’s recent investigative piece takes a fresh look at the makeup of the swarm of health care lobbyists peddling their influence on Capital Hill, as lawmakers work to repair the broken health care system in our country. Not surprisingly, at least 25 lawmakers and aides involved with crafting the industry friendly Medicare Part D Bill, the prescription drug program for seniors, four years ago, have now returned to the Hill to lobby for the interests of the health care industry.

The Medicare Part D Bill was written to benefit the powerful pharmaceutical lobby and not the America taxpayers. Amid heavy lobbying from the pharmaceutical industry, the Medicare Part D Bill specifically prohibited Medicare from directly negotiating for lower drug prices with the drug industry. The only reason to craft the bill prohibiting price negotiations, was to benefit the drug industry, ensuring drug prices would remain high.

The big giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry was ushered through Congress by Billy Tauzin, the former Republican representative from Louisiana and chair of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, who is now president of PhRMA, the powerful drug industry’s lobbying group.

Just a few months after the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill was signed into law, Tauzin began negotiating with PhRMA for his lucrative position. Along with Tauzin, 14 congressional aides involved with the drug industry friendly Medicare Bill left their positions to work for the pharmaceutical industry.

As noted by ProPublica, “…the prices the government pays for drugs through Part D are about 30 percent higher on average than the prices it pays for drugs for Medicaid recipients, according to a 2008 report [1] by the House Committee on Oversight.”

Now, many of those former aides and lawmakers are back to ensure that the pharmaceutical industry retains its ability to reap windfall profits when seniors are moved from Medicaid to Medicare, and to torpedo any language allowing the legalization of re-importing cheaper drugs from Canada.

According to ProPublica some of the main cast of characters, include the head of PhRMA Billy Tauzin, who struck a controversial deal offering a concession worth about $30 billion over the next 10 years, with the Obama administration and the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Max Baucus. Other lawmakers have stated they are not bound by that agreement.

Some of the other returning Medicare Part D players, include former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., who fought against allowing drug prices to be negotiated in Medicare Part D, former Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., who helped negotiate the final version of Part D, Thomas Scully, the former Medicare chief who helped design Part D and many other legislative aides. All of the above mentioned Part D lawmakers left office soon after the bill was passed to either start their own lobbying firms or work for one.

This revolving door phenomenon between Congress and lobbying firms has become commonplace. Dave Levinthal, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics said, “They’re in Congress, out of Congress – then back lobbying their former colleagues.”

And every time a major bill passes there is a mass exodus of lawmakers and staffers to lobbying firms that have an interest in the future implementation of the bill.

With all of the powerful special interests at play affecting health care reform, true reform may depend on a select group of progressive lawmakers out of the reach of the powerful health care lobby.

See ProPublica for more on the story.


Comments

One Response to “Sickening: Medicare Part D Lawmakers and Aides Resurface as Lobbyists to Influence Health Reform”

  1. Fausto on October 23rd, 2009 2:45 pm

    The Hispanic Perspective:

    Hispanics are up in arms about the current health care reform. Many think that they will be loosing the benefits they have come to enjoy, especially with Medicare Advantage. Medicare Advantage, though it costs the government more money, provides a valuable benefits because it combines Medicare Part A, B and D into one plan. A discussion on this subject needs to start among Hispanic leaders and disseminated to the public. Insurance companies that can see the value of the Hispanic market will generate notable success by educating and helping Hispanics understand Medicare better.

    In terms of the reform, the insurance companies still have too much influence in government. Why or how would anyone be against a public option. It will create more jobs and it will help bring the price of coverage down. I believe in Capitalism and competition. The insurance companies, who should ultimately be able to provide better service and benefits than the Government, need to embrace the public option to help fix a system that is costing the American people so much.

    Health care needs to change completely. Most health care problems stems from western medicine. For example, doctors are paid per service. So for many, health care has been more about treatment than preventive measures. It is no wonder why so many western doctors recommend surgery instead of establishing a healthy lifestyle with their patients. This to me is a no-brainer. Plus, doctors should be on a salary, not on a pay-per-treatment system. This would bring the cost of care down.

    There is currently a lot of controversy about Medicare, which can cause lots of anxiety and confusion. Medicare123Now (http://www.medicare123now.com) explains the complicated details about Medicare in an easy fashion. Check it out.

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