GOP Request for White House's Healthcare Reform Negotiating Notes Could Prove Explosive for Industry

Posted 26 January 2012 | By

Republican members of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee-the committee that oversees the US Food and Drug Administration, among other agencies-is requesting that the Obama administration turn over "internal memoranda" related to the administration's negotiations with industry groups during the formulation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in 2010.

"The White House has consistently refused our legitimate requests for information regarding this important piece of legislation," wrote Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and committee members Joe Pitts (R-PA), Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Cliff Sterns (R-FL). "It is outrageous that despite our multiple efforts to obtain information about the negotiations and deals entered into by the White House, Congress has only been provided with material previously made publicly available, while the administration selectively provides such information to The New Yorker. "

A recent article in The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza  detailed some of the administration's negotiating tactics with industry groups, citing memos that he had access to through an inside source.

"His health-insurance bill was crafted by building support from a delicate alliance of interest groups, and Obama personally guided the effort," wrote Lizza, who found that the administration was willing to explore ideas if it helped industry groups "stay on board."

"The White House staff memos show Obama scaling back his proposals in the face of the business lobby, designing a health-care bill to attract support" from various parties, concludes Lizza.

The complete memos, if released, could prove to be explosive for the healthcare products industry. Various industry groups were involved in the negotiations over the healthcare reform bill, though to varying degrees.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), in particular, worked closely with the administration at various times, agreeing not to oppose the legislation in return for agreed-upon reductions in fees for Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. The agreement sidelined one of healthcare reform's most potent potential adversaries, notes John McDonough in his book Inside National Healthcare Reform.

The group was "among the most vociferous and effective opponents of the 1993-94 Clinton health reform plan, investing tens of millions in opposition advertising," writes McDonough. PhRMA eventually agreed to $80 billion dollars in savings over ten years "in rebates, assessments, and contributions" in return for administration and congressional commitments to "resist measures opposed by the industry, such as permitting reimportation of drugs from outside the US." The White House's role in the negotiations was a closely guarded secret for many months, indicating the politically sensitive nature of the negotiations.

The Committee has requested that the documents be made available to them by 1 February.


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