This is the second of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. (Click here to read part one.) Be sure to come back Monday for the third installment, which examines just how nasty negotiations got in Congress—bruised egos, threatened careers, the works. Workhorses It was an intimate gathering at Ted Kennedy’s home in Washington—just the senator, his colleague Max Baucus, and three senior staffers who worked with them on health care.
When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.
Billy Tauzin announced on Thursday that he is stepping down as leader of PhRMA, the drug industry trade group.
The pharmaceutical industry is now threatening to jettison the reform bill if Democrats decide to roll back the legislation's 12-year exclusivity period for biologic drugs, as Obama is pushing for in the final negotiations. The Wall Street Journal quotes a letter that PhRMA president Billy Tauzin sent out to the trade groups members: “Mr. Waxman is pushing hard, with the support of the President, to drop our 12-year FOB period down,” wrote Tauzin, referring to Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
When the Democrats announced that they would be forgoing conference committee proceedings and negotiating a final health care reform bill informally, critics pounced on President Barack Obama for violating his promise of greater transparency in government. And I, for one, had no great urge to defend him. As a presidential candidate, Obama had not merely promised to introduce more transparency to government.
What kind of deal did the administration and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus make with the drug industry? And was it a good deal? I (try to) answer those questions in an article that appears in TNR's latest print edition--and is running on our (new!) home page today. As I note, albeit briefly because of the print edition's space constraints, three other articles advanced this story before I came along. One was a New York Times article, in which PhRMA chairman Billy Tauzin first spilled the beans about a key concession his group had secured.
Thanks to the New York Times, we now know the details of an agreement between the White House and the drug industry. And it's looking more like the sweetheart deal that cynics always said. Actually, it's thanks to Billy Tauzin--head of the drug industry lobby PhRMA--who spilled the bean during an on-the-record interview. Some quick background: Earlier in the summer, the White House made a big splash by announcing the drug industry had agreed to sign off on legislative changes that would cut its revenue stream by $80 billion.
Earlier today the Pharmaceutical Reserach and Manufacturers of America held a conference call for bloggers. PhRMA President Billy Tauzin led the call and used his introductory statements to position PhRMA as a champion of reform--an organization that understands American health care needs to be better and more widely available. He noted, among other things, that PhRMA has been an active participants in discussions on health reform taking place all over Washington, like the ones profiled in this recent Politico article by Carrie Budoff Brown. That much seems to be true.
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