Obama gives sugar plums to the special interests
(Washington Ecaminer) -- By Timothy P. Carney --
"Tonight," President Obama intoned near midnight Sunday, after the House had passed two health care bills, "we pushed back on the undue influence of special interests. ... We proved that this government -- a government of the people and by the people -- still works for the people."
But even before the president spoke, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America -- whose $26.1 million lobbying effort in 2009 was the most expensive by any industry lobby in history -- hailed the health package as "important and historic."
The second-biggest industry lobby in America, the American Medical Association, also cheered, as did the American Hospital Association, the No. 5 industry lobby. Throw in the goliath senior lobby AARP and Beltway powerhouse General Electric, and you realize Obama's underdog tale is all bark and no bite.
The health care bill Obama signed into law Tuesday is a triumph for the special interests. It will benefit the biggest businesses, and by injecting more government into the economy, it will permanently stimulate K Street.
Yet all along Obama has claimed the opposite. The Democrats' party-line Senate vote for the bill represented "standing up to the special interests," Obama said in December -- just before the health care lobbyists and pharmaceutical political action committees hosted fundraisers for Martha Coakley to try to preserve the Democrats' 60-vote supermajority.
Throughout March, as momentum built for passing the bill, and as Democrats adopted the mantra, "You're either with the American people, or you're with the insurance companies," health insurance stocks climbed in tandem with the bill's odds of passing. The health sector outperformed every other sector in the S&P 500 over the last month.
And once the bill passed, health care stocks rallied. Insurance giant Aetna -- whose product you are now required by law to own -- hit its 52-week high the morning after. Drug maker Pfizer rose 4 percent Monday and Tuesday, increasing its market capitalization by $3.8 billion -- almost a two-hundredfold return on the company's $21.9 million lobbying effort.
In Washington, talk of who's getting rich or taking a hit often distracts pointlessly from substantive issues. But it's important here for two reasons.
First, there's the unsettling but unavoidable conclusion that our president is willing to deceive us if he thinks he can get away with it. He knew the drug makers were on his side -- after all, he cut a private deal with top drug lobbyist Billy Tauzin. He also knew that the media would consider any big government proposal a blow to big business.
Second, showing who benefits most makes clear that this "reform" wasn't designed to "work for the people," as Obama claims. It works for the deep-pocketed companies who wrote it. Come January, you will no longer be able to buy over-the-counter medicines with your health savings account money -- if you want the tax deduction, you'll need to get more costly prescription drugs. That hurts customers and taxpayers while driving up health care spending -- but it profits Big Pharma.
The bill is loaded with sugar plums for the drug industry:
o Taxpayers will subsidize drug makers even more. o Employers will be forced to give prescription-drug insurance to workers. o Generic versions of biologic drugs will be kept off the market for 12 years. o States will be forced to subsidize drugs through Medicaid. o Americans will still be prohibited from importing cheaper drugs from China. o Medicare will continue overpaying for drugs.
If the bill's actual provisions paint a different picture from Obama's rhetoric, so does the money trail.
Standing behind Obama at the bill signing Tuesday were Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the leading Senate and House recipients, respectively, of health-sector political action committee money in this election cycle. The 2008 champs of health PAC fundraising, Max Baucus and Charlie Rangel, were also on stage.
And the man with the pen in his hand had received more money from drug companies and health insurance companies than any politician in the history of the country...MORE...LINK
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