The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the largest single-industry lobbying group in America whose political connections in the Hill have helped drug companies to battle price restraints, stretch patent guidelines, and avoid litigation, is out with a press release this morning, applauding Senate passage of health-care bill. The bill brings the nation closer than it has ever been to having mandated health insurance for all.
“We applaud the Senate for taking an important and historic step toward expanding high-quality, affordable health care coverage and services to tens of millions of Americans, many of whom are struggling today financially. While considerable work remains to be done in reconciling differences between the Senate and House bills, we remain convinced that comprehensive health care reform, if done in a smart way, will benefit patients, our economy and the future of our nation.
“Most importantly, the Senate bill recognizes the importance of medical progress in America. Innovative, cutting-edge medicines have dramatically increased life expectancy rates in the United States and have allowed patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other devastating chronic diseases to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. We strongly believe that everyone in America should benefit from promising new advances in medical care.
“By expanding coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, the Senate is moving decisively in that direction. We embrace reform efforts which put an end to practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions or charging higher premiums because of gender. We also support expanding Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of federal poverty – something we first proposed along with Families USA.
“Our commitment to comprehensive health care reform is evident by our $80 billion pledge to reduce health care costs over 10 years. To that end, our companies agreed back in June to help most eligible seniors and disabled Americans who hit the so-called ‘donut hole’ in Medicare Part D cut their out-of-pocket expenses on brand-name medications in half as part of the Senate’s health care reform legislation. The remainder of our commitment will help the government expand health care coverage to millions of Americans.
“In the final analysis, we believe the Senate bill provides the best blueprint for reform. It offers the kind of change that will benefit patients today without putting medical progress at risk in the future. Today, we believe the Senate voted with America’s best interests and future in mind.”
No wonder big Pharma believes the Senate voted with “America’s best interests and future in mind”. The new health care bill will provide the pharmaceutical industry, which has long been a first-rate interest group, employing one of the largest lobbying staffs on K Street, with billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies and mandates forcing people to buy drug insurance.
Last week, the Senate, again, being strictly guided by “America’s best interests in mind”, killed legislation that would have made it easier for Americans to buy their prescription drugs from abroad, where prices are generally much cheaper. As an example, a Nexium prescription that costs $424 in the U.S. would cost $37 in Germany and $36 in Spain. Yet, Senate lawmakers went ahead and killed the provision that would have allowed Americans to buy FDA-approved drugs from certain countries with well-established drug-safety regimes. Supporters said it would have saved U.S. consumers about $80 billion over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the federal government would have saved an additional $20 billion over the same span. Regrettably, the Pharma industry strongly opposed to the direction of the bill, lobbied against it and the public interest, and prevailed.