Despite the sweet deal arranged between the pharmaceutical industry and Obama administration (cut reimbursements by $80 billion in return for making everyone buy insurance, inflating the overall demand for pills), many congressional Democrats are not prepared to go along. Only Republican votes on the Senate Finance Committee prevented approval of an amendment imposing much larger price cuts.
President Obama scored a big victory on Thursday as the Senate Finance Committee rejected a proposal to require pharmaceutical companies to give bigger discounts to Medicare on drugs dispensed to older Americans with low incomes.
The victory came at the expense of senators in Mr. Obama’s own party who had championed the proposal. The vote, in effect, upheld a deal reached in June by the White House and the drug industry, which saw the agreement as a possible way to avoid more onerous requirements that might be imposed by Congress.
The proposal, an amendment by Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, would have required drug makers to provide Medicare with discounts in the form of rebates totaling more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Some of the money would have been used to close a gap in Medicare coverage of prescription drugs. In 2007, more than eight million Medicare beneficiaries fell into the gap, known as the doughnut hole.
Three Democratic senators – Max Baucus of Montana, Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey – joined all the Republicans on the panel in defeating the amendment by a vote of 13 to 10.
Pharmaceutical price controls are a bad thing. But the drugmakers are supporting legislation to politicize the health care received by all Americans in order to make a few extra bucks. So if they are willing to have government run more of our lives, why shouldn’t government run more of their operations too? If they can work to wreck the U.S. health care system for profit, why shouldn’t they suffer from the crash impact as well?
Next time when the pharmaceutical industry comes calling, Republican lawmakers should close their doors to the pill manufacturers and abstain from the fight. Let the industry go back to its newfound pro-regulation buddies for relief. If the result is price controls, so be it. Maybe the industry will learn a valuable lesson for the next political battle.