To start with, PhARMA, the big pharmaceuticals lobby, is spending 12 million bucks right now on ads promoting the Baucus bill, and they’ve set aside a total of 150 million bucks for the rest of the campaign. This is part of the 80 billion that the industry has pledged over ten years to reduce pharmaceutical costs ( although how this 12 million reduces costs, I don’t know… surely they will find a way to bill this expense to the consumer.)
They have set up an “action committee” called The Americans for Stable Quality Care Coalition, an impressive mask, I think. The NY Times seems to think there will be some friction here with the House of reps, the Baucus bunch in the Senate, and Obama:
President Obama has cited the deal with the group as signifying a new era of cooperation. But some critics say the advertising fund could be wielded against alternative approaches to health care legislation. Some House Democrats, including Henry A. Waxman of California, are seeking drug industry givebacks not covered in the deal with Mr. Baucus and the White House.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs expressed some annoyance yesterday that lobbyists were clued in to the health care plan proposed by Sen. Max Baucus’ Finance Committee before the White House and other lawmakers.
According to The Hill, Gibbs said he was told that:
“K Street had a copy of the Baucus plan, meaning, not surprisingly, the special interests have gotten a copy of the plan that I understand was given to committee members today.”
To see what a small world it is here, it should be noted that many of Baucus’ former staffers now work as health care industry lobbyists and two former lobbyists work on his committee staff. I don’t get the sense that any of them are related in any way to the average consumer or middle-class voter.
So, let me get this straight. A former lobbyist for a health insurance company writes a health reform plan, which is then leaked to lobbyists, some of whom were likely former Baucus staffers, and public disclosure is delayed by a couple of days — the plan was released to the media and lobbyists over the past few days but only posted to the Finance Committee web site today. To paraphrase the late, great Bill Hicks, it just doesn’t sound good when you walk it out.
It looks to me like President Obama isn’t paying attention to the Finance Commttee’s Gang of Six activities… and remember, these were the guys (and gal) who shut out single-payer and put a wall up in front of Government Options.