The pharmaceutical industry believes that it has bought itself protection by supporting the Obama health care plan, but House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman begs to differ. Reports the New York Times:
As the health care debate focuses on whether cost cuts are looming in Medicare coverage, Representative Henry A. Waxman is on a crusade to save Medicare billions of dollars – in a way that he says would end up helping the elderly.
That is because the money would come from the drug industry, which is why Mr. Waxman may have a fight on his hands.
Drug makers contend they have already worked out a 10-year, $80 billion cost-savings deal with the White House and crucial Senate gatekeepers on the trillion-dollar health care overhaul. The industry says that trying to add Mr. Waxman’s provision could scuttle that agreement.
“You not only break the deal, but you break the bank for us,” said Billy Tauzin, chief executive of the drug industry’s trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA.
At issue is a multibillion-dollar “windfall” that Mr. Waxman contends the drug industry received when drug benefits were added to Medicare coverage in 2006. Mr. Waxman, Democrat of California, is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is central to the House’s legislative efforts on health care.
Does the pharmaceutical industry really believe that the deal would survive conference committee, in which Rep. Waxman will play an influential role? And if the drugmakers get double-crossed, do they really believe the administration would raise a finger to save them? Not likely.
In fact, a lot of Democrats might be persuaded by Rep. Waxman’s arguments. Concludes the Times:
“We don’t have any deal with them, and the whole enterprise of doing health insurance for all Americans isn’t to make the drug companies happy, or wealthier,” Mr. Waxman said. “They’re going to make a lot of money when we insure all Americans. There’s no argument for them to get a windfall.”