While President Barack Obama has presented his federal health care takeover as an assault on the special interests, the legislation actually was written and supported by many of the very same special interests. The pharmaceutical industry is a big one.
President Obama on Monday credited the Senate for “standing up to the special interests — who’ve prevented reform for decades, and who are furiously lobbying against it now.” But the health care “reform” bill, passed late Sunday night, provides the drug companies with billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies, government-sanctioned monopolies, and mandates forcing people to buy drug insurance. At the same time, the bill doesn’t touch the industry’s existing special favors that Obama had pledged to eliminate in the name of consumers.
The biggest favor to name-brand drug companies may be the lengthy monopolies for complex drugs known as biologics. Congress has long and quietly debated how many years the Food and Drug Administration should prohibit generic versions of biologics. Generic companies proposed a five-year exclusivity period — the same protection granted to standard drugs. Name-brand companies wanted 15 years. The Senate bill, like the House bill, grants biologics a 12-year monopoly. This could keep generics off the market altogether, meaning higher costs and more drug-company profits.
The individual mandate — the Holy Grail for private health insurance companies — also spells more business for prescription-drug companies. Under the Senate bill, everyone, like it or not, will be required to buy prescription-drug insurance. Similarly, states will be forced to include prescription drug coverage in their Medicaid plans.
Then come the subsidies. By 2019, taxpayers will be providing $196 billion in annual subsidies for poor and middle-class people to buy the health insurance the bill forces them to buy. Liberal blogger Harold Pollack happily points out that this “exceeds the combined total of federal spending on Food Stamps and other nutrition assistance programs, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Head Start, TANF cash payments to single mothers and their children, all the National Institutes of Health,” and more.
So much for bringing “change” to Washington!
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