Posted: June 6, 2012 at 5:31 pm

A Deal, But At What Price?

Politico reported this week that President Obama was secretly in league with drug companies during the year-long debate over the passage of federal health reform in 2009, even while he was publicly posing as a populist enemy of the drug industry.

The Washington Examiner ran a similar story, and also pointed out that Max Baucus was a part of the plot in which the White House secretly agreed to massive concessions to drug makers, who in turn agreed to come out in favor of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

These concessions are costly:in making them, the Obama White House reversed several positions that Obama took during his 2008 run for president.  The Examiner reports that in the summer of 2009,

…the emails show, drug lobbyists, White House officials and aides to Sen. Max Baucus hammered out a deal that formed the backbone of Obamacare. The final bill would subsidize prescription drugs, force states to include drug coverage in Medicaid, and expand private insurance coverage of drugs. Also, the White House pledged to oppose policies that Obama had promised on the campaign trail: allowing reimportation of prescription drugs and empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower prices on the drugs Medicare is paying for.

In return for Obama giving away the farm, drug companies agreed to support passage of the Affordable Care Act and even run TV ads favoring it.

I don’t know what to make of all of this. There is no easy answer.  The Affordable Care Act has many good components, and clearly you have to make deals to pass something big in Congress. But at what cost?

Also, the Examiner article fails to mention the most important concession by the White House: surrendering on the issue of a “public option” for U.S. citizens. This was Obama’s original proposal for a government-provided health insurance plan for purchase by citizens at a low price, which would have competed with private plans. The public option was (and is today) always popular, could have passed Congress easily with the President’s leadership if he had wanted to follow through with it, and would have been the best thing for the country.  But it was never used as anything more than a bargaining tool by the White House, something to surrender as a concession.  And now we learn about the many other giveways to health industry.

I suppose it is possible (although I believe improbable) that the final product and outcome were the only possible scenarios in which anything could have gotten through. The fact that Baucus was responsible for helping broker the deal (the least surprising aspect of this story) makes me wonder.

In the end, I fear that the famous mentality of White Houses past and present, of wanting to pass something, anything, at all costs just so that you can declare victory, appears to have prevailed here in these arrangements. In essence, the drug industry got whatever it wanted, and the price of it all was to simply support the legislation. That’s not exactly a hard bargain.  It’s more like something out of the Devil and Daniel Webster.

Also, given that Obama’s health reform passed Congress with not a single Republican vote,  what was the support of the drug industry really worth in the end? Was it even necessary? The Democrats who voted for the Affordable Care Act got slammed in the 2010 mid-term elections.  In retrospect, would the 2010 mid-terms have been much worse if the drug companies, having been denied their bag of goodies by the Obama White House, had opposed the Affordable Care Act from the get-go?  I doubt it.

59 comments

  1. Ingemar Johansson

    HC reform and its back room deals are the least of your worries. Under his tenure 88 million are jobless, food stamp numbers have tripled.

    Those precious, all knowing Independents only give him a 30% job approval.

    This President will set the Dems/Progressives/Liberals back a generation.

    You thought 2010 was bad with the Donkeys losing almost 700 state legislative seats.

    Just wait till November.

    • sNowWayter

      Let me guess. Liberty University law grad or Glenn Beck U.? I couldn’t tell.

      • Ingemar Johansson

        Bush may have started the bonfire but Obama brought drums of gasoline.

        Didn’t preview the CNN Video I posted three comments down, did ya?

        • Norma Duffy AKA ILIKEWOODS

          Dude, I dont watch CNN I get my info from better sources:

          Under questioning from skeptical Republicans, the director of the nonpartisan (and widely respected) Congressional Budget Office was emphatic about the value of the 2009 stimulus. And, he said, the vast majority of economists agree.

          In a survey conducted by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 80 percent of economic experts agreed that, because of the stimulus, the U.S. unemployment rate was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been otherwise.

          “Only 4 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed,” CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee. “That,” he added, “is a distinct minority.”

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/congressional-budget-office-defends-stimulus/2012/06/06/gJQAnFnjJV_story.html

          April, the Treasury reported a surplus of $59 billion, about $1 billion more than CBO’s estimate in last month’s Monthly Budget Review, which was based on the Daily Treasury Statements. Because of the large inflows of tax revenues, the federal government usually runs a budget surplus in April—though that did not occur in 2009, 2010, and 2011. April was the first month since September 2008 in which the federal government recorded a surplus.

          http://www.cbo.gov/

          Ingy your talking points are showing!

  2. Kenneth Kailey

    Ingy, what you fail to recognise is that attacking President Obama on the ACA is untimately going to hurt his opponent. The ACA is based, in part, on Romney’s Health Care Act in Mass. In fact, some of the same players wrote both peices of legislation. Romney campaigned hard for Romneycare and there is no end of video to slam his ugly corporate butt with it. I would suggest you guys find a different tune. This one will sink you in November.

    • Ingemar Johansson

      No, HC was passed in the dark of the night by bribing Senators and using reconciliation which requires less votes.

      And Mitt has proclaimed from the beginning, “Repeal and Replace”.

      • Ingemar Johansson

        Things may be “peaches” in your booming metropolis buts here’s what the real world is experiencing.

        One Sick Labor Market

        There were so many disturbing elements to the May jobs data that we’re not sure we can do justice to the litany of disappointments (with some help from our friends at the Investor’s Business Daily):

        The share of long-term unemployment is at its highest level since the Great Depression (42%).
        Fully 54% of college degree graduates under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed.
        45 million Americans are on food stamps — one in seven residents.
        47% of Americans are on some form of government assistance.
        The employment-to-population ratio for 25-54 year olds is now 75.7%, lower than it was when the recession supposedly ended in June 2009.
        The number of people not in the labour force has swelled eight million since the recession ended; absent that effect, the unemployment rate would be 12% right now (about the same as President Obama’s election chances would be).
        The number of people confident enough to leave their jobs fell 11% in May
        for the second month in a row to 891k, the lowest since November 2010.
        The ranks of the unemployed who have been looking fruitlessly for work for at least 27 weeks jumped 310k in May, the sharpest increase since May 2011.
        The unemployment rate for males aged 16-19 is 27% and for males between 20 and 24 it is 13%. Draw your own conclusions from a social (in)stability standpoint.
        One in seven Americans are either unemployed or underemployed.
        Only one in six of the youth are working full-time and three-in-five are living with their folks or another relative (as per the NYT).
        A mere 16% of the 2009-2011 graduating class has found full-time work, while 22% are working part-time. Even those hired from 2006-08, just 23% are working full-time.
        According to a poll cited in the NYT, just 14% of high-school grads today believe they will have a more successful financial future than their parents Line of the day, as depressing as it is, comes from an 18-year old: “Thank God I had a buddy at Burger King who could help me out”. Fast-food has emerged as the fast-growing industry in a country once led by technology. Even tech now is fuelled more by companies that produce nifty consumer gadgets and feed our narcissistic needs than those who focus on improving the nation’s capital stock which is the ultimate trailblazer for productivity growth and durable gains in our standard-of-living.

      • Lynn

        Your talking about Medicare Part D

        “What followed was one of the most extraordinary events in congressional history. The vote was kept open for almost three hours while the House Republican leadership brought massive pressure to bear on the handful of principled Republicans who had the nerve to put country ahead of party. The leadership even froze the C-SPAN cameras so that no one outside the House chamber could see what was going on.” http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/19/republican-budget-hypocrisy-health-care-opinions-columnists-bruce-bartlett.html

  3. ATG

    Public option had only 57 votes on the best of days. Baucus, Lieberman and Nelson all opposed it fiercely. You can’t trade away what you never had.

      • Bob Brigham

        As the public option could’ve been passed through reconciliation, it only need 50 votes.

        That’s not a valid excuse.

  4. Rnov

    Obama is from Chicago. Why do you expect him to act any differently than every other corrupt politician in the windy city? Aside from any of his policy decisions, anyone paying attention couldn’t possibly miss the fact that Obama is about as bought as it gets.

      • Rnov

        Corruption is corruption, right or left. It will never go away unless we speak out against it whether the elected official shares our views or not. I’m the first person to criticize corruption and bad policy on the right, and I’m conservative. It’s a shame more people don’t do that in my opinion. Your political foes will always cry fowl, but it’s those who are willing to call out their own parties that will make real changes in the system.

        • Lynn

          I have asked Reid/ Tester/ Max to make the Rethugs TALK when ever they pull the filibuster crap. I have left numerous critical messages for both Tester and Max when they voted against my beliefs.

          Max’s votes during the Bush years, Medicare part D, the Patroit Act mean I will not be voting for him in 2014.

          I want Bernie Sanders cloned

  5. john

    Dear Cowgirl,
    There were many an article about this in 2010 with just as many denials from the White House. Back then the reporting was that big Pharma would forgo $105 billion in profits over 10 years in return for no re-importation of drugs. They got it. In December of 2010 Sen Byron Dorgan D-ND introduced the Dorgan Amendment, aka Drug re-importation with the backing of Sen John McCain R-AZ, among others. Classic Dorgan on the Senate floor which still can be view on C-Span archives. The White House convinced 30 Dems, including Tester, to not vote for their own party’s amendment. The amendment died on the Senate floor. Big Pharma rolls again. They can forgo $105 billion over 10 years. Chicken feed to big Pharma. As Jack Nicholson, playing the Joker, in Batman said,”Ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?” Obama did. Just as Norman Mailer stated that Clinton could never stand up to Wall St., Obama, being a novice Pres, couldn’t stand up to Big Pharma. Life goes on.

    • Mark Tokarski

      Well said. You’re close to the heart of the matter, that concentrated wealth is political power. It takes strong people to resist, and there aren’t many of those around.

    • Ingemar Johansson

      That’s a beauty. This is my favorite.

      .Feminism was established as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.

      -Rush Limbaugh

  6. Mark Tokarski

    What blog am I at here? This post is reflective, critical of The One, realistic about ACA, acknowledging that back room deals were struck long before the Kabuki Dance of “reform”..

    Nice job CG, whoever you are.

  7. YW

    I voted for Obama, and I will again given the choice. I also voted for Baucus, though I probably won’t again–but this is lame as f*** no matter which way you look at it. Having a deal with PhRMA to dupe the American people into thinking the health care bill was bad for them when it really was a gold mine is deceptive and dishonest. It’s wrong and it weakened the bill.

  8. Bob Brigham

    Without the Public Option, so-called Health Care Reform was nothing but an insurance company bailout with the added insult of the Heritage Foundation’s Individual Mandate requiring people pay tribute to corporations.

    Baucus was shameful in his whoring for Big Insurance, his feet dragging past the August recess and then insistence on an unpopular bailout instead of popular reform is one of the major reasons the GOP won congress.

    Nothing good is going to happen in DC as long as Baucus chairs the finance committee. He needs to go. Primary, general, either way Dems are better off without Baucus in DC.

    • lisa o'conner

      Agreed- and this deceitful way of trying to make us think we got a good bill because “phama didn’t like it so it must r good for consumers” is a total crock.

      • Norma Duffy AKA ILIKEWOODS

        You didn’t get a good bill every democrat told you you didn’t get a good bill. What we finally got was a frame in which to bring about real change, and if you still want an individual Mandate push for it!!!!!!!!

        Meanwhile our kids are safe, no one can be thrown of their health care, there is more help for seniors and Veterans….. and you want to trash it all and leave those people in the streets while people die.

        You Teapublicans, are beginning to sound more like the coliseum crowds of Rome who came to watch the christians get eaten by Lions… more and more each day!

        • Mark Tokarski

          Yeah, important to make those later reforms when you are not burdened by majorities in both houses and the presidency. Later, with minority positions you can make those real reforms happen.

          Oh, forgot – Norma, that’s sarcasm.

  9. Norma Duffy AKA ILIKEWOODS

    Its not a big deal on Obamas Part. It is and has been our Problem, for a long time…. so he is no stronger then Clinton is???

    I’ll take that any day of the week,and vote for him this time as well. What was bush? He killed thosands and thousand of our young people in two wars, and almost all of that was secret.

    If we are going to keep the democrats we have then you need to be writing letters everyday. Reading what they are up to! Calling their office once a week and telling them how you feel about voting for each bill. But you all are not doing that.

    In fact, a good 90% of the Population of Montana doesn’t do any of that. So it is the Bosses who failed to tell the employee what to do that lead to this Misadventure.

    Keep fooling yourselves that it is the employees fault, do you expect him to make an educated guess as to how you feel? I think Obama did the best he could in a corporate controlled government, and my proof the Corporations have a death grip as a leech on this country was in Wisconsin. Corporate Money meant a difference over your vote. ASK QUESTIONS! How hard is that?

    I get letters from Thomas every day in my email box, and I read them. http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php

    I know what Creeps like Denny are doing every day to our country, because he is corporate controlled. This man wanted to run oil and gas lines through our Glacier natural park this last year. he wrote a bill to take away millions and millions of arces away from regular people and public land as well, his border bill was a way to circumvent your rights as a people.

  10. Gadfly

    People may have forgotten that Max voted for the prescription drug plan in 2004 that created the infamous “doughnut hole” coverage for senior citizens. The biggest flaw the Democrats have – and they’ve had it for a good 60 years – is the notion that they can kowtow to more moderate Republicans and think they will slip in a few progressive ideas unnoticed.

    This neither motivates the base nor gives any real encouragement to lure the independent voter. It simply keeps people thinking a candidate is simply the least bad option. No wonder voter turnout drops under these circumstances.

    As far as the notion that criticism of an officeholder on “our” side is encouraging the other side, trust me, if the emperor has no clothes, the other side has already noticed! The Obama and Max crowd – and I include a certain well-known former Montana operative in this grouping – completely blew a historic opportunity by not pushing for a much stronger piece of legislation.

    Nothing Max did made a damn bit of difference to the GOP.

  11. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

    Now THIS really sucks! One of the absolute BEST writers in Montana is silenced by a newly arrived pissant outta state editor at the fair and balanced Missoula Independent! Hey, Meyershitz, don’t even THINK about coming here to Montana and putting a muzzle on George Ochenski! Won’t work, dude. You see, we LOVE George. George is what the Indy is all about. Just who the HELL do you think you are???

    Do not silence GO. We don’t play that game here in Montana. ‘Sides, your record is pretty well-known!

    See the Lowdown for details. It’s a sad, sad day for free speech AND independent newspapers in Montana when you can’t even read the cage rattler, George O!

    http://mtlowdown.blogspot.com/2012/06/wheres-ochenski.html

    Free speech is a terribly scary thing that must be silenced, even in the independent press!

      • Rob Kailey

        Read it again. Oschenski wasn’t fired. He chose not to work under adverse conditions. If only most of the rest of us plebeians had such a choice to make …

        • Havre Voter

          Good for him! He has the right to quit if he doesn’t want to work there any more. He’s been doing that column for what seems like forever and who can blame him if he’s decided his done.

        • YW

          That’s not how I read it.

          “Eventually, Ochenski says Meyerowitz told him the Independent didn’t need his column anymore.”

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

          Sorry, Rob, but I disagree. If you dig a little deeper into the posts, you’ll find that Meyershitz has done this sort of thing in the past, most notably in Alaska. He SPECIALIZES in running writers off. That’s what his very checkered past indicates. The guy is very bad news for the Indy and for Montana. Hell, who knows how the guy ended up here and why?

          George was forced out. That is the same as being fired. It is exactly what the GF Spitoon did to six of its reporters recently. I know for a fact that some of those folks were NOT ready to take early retirement. They were forced out, or essentially canned. And the Spitoon is a lesser newspaper for it.

          Bottom line? Although I locked horns with GO occasionally, I really liked his writing and followed him all the years he wrote there. He should have been allowed to stay, and he should have been allowed to continue to write HIS column his way. After all, that’s what writers do. Meyershitz had no business messing with GO’s opinions. Hell, George knew more about Montana from the inside out than nearly all the writers out there. What does a newly arrived editor from back east know about Montana? Shitz! As in Meyershitz!

          “I spoke with Ochenski Thursday afternoon. He said he was “100 percent forced out by the new editor,” Robert Meyerowitz. “I haven’t missed a week for 12 years. I did it all as a freelancer,” Ochenski said, as he got ready to head off to his cabin in the mountains for the weekend. Ochenski said Meyerowitz started wading into his columns, changing headlines, and told him that he couldn’t write about national or international topics

    • James Conner

      George had a damned good run before being run off the opinion page. And he was just about the only good thing in a newsweekly that I thought stopped being all that good years ago. We’ll be reading George again on a regular basis somewhere. But I suspect we won’t be reading the Independent that much longer. The best place for intelligent, independent reporting and commentary is Missoula these days is online at 4&20.

  12. treehuggerpotsmoker69

    I am a die hard liberal and love my medical marijuana and clean air and trees and beads and stuff, but I don’t know about this Affordable Health Care Act…It doesn’t really seem…well affordable? Does it even cover medical marijuana? I better because I broke my arm when I was 6 years old and I am now 19 and it still hurts and medical marijuana is the only thing that stops the pain! 420 all day everyday!!!

    President Barack Obama repeatedly tells us that one reason national health care is needed is that we can no longer afford to pay for Medicare and Medicaid. But if Medicare and Medicaid are fiscally insolvent and gradually bankrupting our society, why is a government takeover of medical care for the rest of society a good idea? What large-scale government program has not eventually spiraled out of control, let alone stayed within its projected budget? Why should anyone believe that nationalizing health care would create the first major government program to “pay for itself,” let alone get smaller rather than larger over time? Why not simply see how the Democrats can reform Medicare and Medicaid before nationalizing much of the rest of health care?

    President Obama reiterated this past week that “no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.” This is an oft-repeated goal of the president’s and the Democrats’ health care plan. But if any individual can buy health insurance at any time, why would anyone buy health insurance while healthy? Why would I not simply wait until I got sick or injured to buy the insurance? If auto insurance were purchasable once one got into an accident, why would anyone purchase auto insurance before an accident? Will the Democrats next demand that life insurance companies sell life insurance to the terminally ill? The whole point of insurance is that the healthy buy it and thereby provide the funds to pay for the sick. Demanding that insurance companies provide insurance to everyone at any time spells the end of the concept of insurance. And if the answer is that the government will now make it illegal not to buy insurance, how will that be enforced? How will the government check on 300 million people?

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

      Excellent commercial, Drildo the dildo. But unfortunately, with the creation of the CIA after WWII, the military industrial complex took over with the help of YOUR side of righwing kooks in government. And now, it’s too late to stop them. The Defense Dept. now makes foreign policy, aided by the nazis in your party.

      Here, let’s do a little test, shall we? How many of your moronic friends were/are the BIGGEST supporters of Georgie’s Orgy of Slaughter for Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex?

      It’s over, Dildo. The nazis won. If Ron Paul were a real threat, he would simply join JFK AND RFK in the long list of folks who needed to die.

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

        But I will say this, Drildo. If the military is not reigned in some how, there is not even any hope left. I’m not optimistic.