Friday, August 14, 2009

A Quick Thought on the "PhRMA Deal"

When I first heard about this story, I kind of cringed at the thought of the possiblility of the White House sabotaging their own health care agenda. I understand trying to get the pharmaceutical industry to back health care reform. After all, they're in the business of profiting by keeping you alive, as opposed to the business of profiting by denying care. And as Bob Cesca points out,

...the deal should come as no surprise since back in the early Summer the president announced PhRMA's proposal for saving $80 billion over ten years as its contribution to healthcare reform. We knew this. At the time, no one seemed to be outraged or alarmed.

What we didn't know was the extent of the tat in exchange for this, you know, tit. And it appears like it might have something to do with a White House and/or Finance Committee pledge to oppose importation or price reduction negotiations on prescription drugs.

To be perfectly clear, this isn't a fair compromise since the potential financial gain for PhRMA outweighs the comparatively nominal $80 billion pledge. And, of course, no one, including me, is a fan of the healthcare lobby and its various subsets. Nor do we like to hear about this White House -- our White House -- making backroom deals. That said, did anyone seriously believe that PhRMA made this pledge in a vacuum, offering up $80 billion in free cash, just because they're nice guys? The shocked horror in some circles about the fact that they were offered a concession in exchange for this pledge seems naive. There's always a quid pro quo, especially in politics. Why would this be any different?

But my own thought about it this is that the more I read about it, the harder it is for me to believe. The source for this story is an unnamed health care lobbyist. It was reported in the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal and the Sun Myung Moon owned Washington Times, not exactly what you'd call bastions of liberalism.

Looking at what I assume to be a copy of the leaked memo, it doesn't look like your normal memo. There aren't any names on it and it's just titled "PhRMA Deal". I mean, look at the thing!

It looks like something I could crank out in a couple of minutes on a 1961 IBM Selectric™.

That combined with the fact that there are so many factions opposed to health care reform, that it's not too difficult for me to think about possible conspiracy theories to sabotage the whole kit and kaboodle. I could be wrong and I'll admit so when further facts arise. Until then, I'll just keep my eye out and be a little skeptical about this particular story.

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