Carl Levin Takes Ownership of Corrupt Deal with PhRMA

Here’s what my Senator, Carl Levin, said last night when he voted against the Dorgan reimportation amendment. (h/t powwow)

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, it has become apparent that passage of this Dorgan amendment relative to importation of prescription drugs, an amendment which I have long supported, could threaten passage of broader health care reform. If so, the perfect would become the enemy of the good. For that reason, I will vote ‘‘no’’ on the Dorgan amendment on this bill.

Presumably in an attempt to justify to constituents like me why he doesn’t think consumers should save $100 billion on drugs, he said he had to vote down the Dorgan amendment to preserve the overall health care reform bill.

Just as a reminder, here’s one of Jane’s many posts explaining the corrupt genesis of the PhRMA deal. As she described, in late spring and summer, at a time when the White House pretended it was letting Congress write bills, the White House made a series of closed door deals with big health care players to buy off their approval for health care “reform.” The deals would:

  1. Keep them from advertising against the White House plan
  2. Keep them from torpedoing vulnerable Democrats in 2010 so there isn’t a repeat of 1994
  3. Keep their money out of GOP coffers

As reported by Ryan Grim, here are the terms of the deal negotiated with PhRMA.

Commitment of up to $80 billion, but not more than $80 billion.

  1. Agree to increase of Medicaid rebate from 15.1 – 23.1% ($34 billion)
  2. Agree to get FOBs done (but no agreement on details — express disagreement on data exclusivity which both sides say does not affect the score of the legislation.) ($9 billion)
  3. Sell drugs to patients in the donut hole at 50% discount ($25 billion)

This totals $68 billion

4. Companies will be assessed a tax or fee that will score at $12 billion. There was no agreement as to how or on what this tax/fee will be based.

Total: $80 billion

In exchange for these items, the White House agreed to:

  1. Oppose importation
  2. Oppose rebates in Medicare Part D
  3. Oppose repeal of non-interference
  4. Oppose opening Medicare Part B

So now Ameican consumers have to continue to subsidize drug development for the rest of the world (and a great deal of erectile dysfunction ads) so the Obama Administration could buy off the PhRMA.

This is–as Scarecrow noted the other day–one big protection racket.

And this is the thoroughly undemocratic, anti-consumer process that Carl Levin has now taken ownership of.

56 replies
  1. barrelofmonkeys says:

    Makes me wonder if the Dorgan amendment should have been passed and a lousy healthcare reform bill should have been laid to rest for now.

    • emptywheel says:

      I said last night, we should have passed Dorgan and removed the anti-trust exemption, thereby giving ourselves leverage over the industry, and THEN started over. We’re giving away any leverage we have over the industry right now. We would have been better off getting leverage first (and saving people some money) and then passing real reform.

  2. phred says:

    I’ve been making phone calls to Senators this morning. Senator Kerry’s health care aide is supposed to return my call. Senator Kirk’s aide literally stammered herself into silence as she failed to come up with an answer to the question of how it was possible for Democrats in general and Kirk in particular to defeat the Dorgan amendment after campaigning for years for exactly this kind of policy. I have spoken with the offices of both Senators Brown and Sanders asking them to get the individual mandate out of the bill or kill it.

    The fact is, they all own this. Every. Last. One. And they need to be defeated.

  3. klynn says:

    If the nation will be dictated to buy into private insurance why do pharma or the insurance corps even need marketing departments? I think the bills at hand are marketing enough.

    Fire all pharma and health insurance marketing departments now. They will not be needed.

    Marketing $$$ arguments become moot.

    • qweryous says:

      The US health care industry has been mutating into a typical ‘cost-plus’ government contract scenario.

      There is of course little or no incentive to control the ‘costs’ unless that is specifically written into the contract that governs the relationship between payer and seller.

      I haven’t ‘read the bill’ but will guarantee no effective contract language on this when it is all ‘negotiated’.

      Once this ‘reform’ is enacted the marketing departments will be even more important.

      The marketing departments will be necessary to remind consumer citizens what a great deal they are getting on their new improved health care.

      Advertising will also be used to twist and bend incumbents and challengers to preserve what the industry wants. Relaxation and/or removal of corporate financing of campaigns is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.

      The marketing department is a convienent slush fund for various corporate junket schemes such as golf tournaments and resort trips to reward the employees who sell and administer such insurance ( and the executives who run the companies).

      The ‘best’ reason is increasing profits by increasing costs.

      ‘Marketing’ of health care is going to increase with this ‘reform’

  4. IntelVet says:

    “Presumably in an attempt to justify to constituents like me why he doesn’t think consumers should save $100 billion on drugs, he said he had to vote down the Dorgan amendment to preserve the overall health care reform bill.”

    No, sir. What you have done is to dump an additional $100 million dollar “tax” on the commoner for the “health care” plan. Congratulations on making the plan even more unaffordable.

  5. alinaustex says:

    This bill neeeds to be killed first thing , next thing is fire Rahm , third thing is to find supportable candidates to run in primaries against all these insurance industry whores who are masqurading as progressive democrats . This is not the change we voted for – I hang my hat with Gov Dean -kill this bill…..HELLS BELLS maybe we ought to nstart a draft Dean movement now to run against Obama in the 2012 primary .

    • bmaz says:

      I was never worried about this rehearing until seeing that it may come down to freaking Johnnie Rawlinson. She is a lifer prosecution type of personality out of a fairly conservative Las Vegas area. She also was on the panel that just absolutely screwed Brandon Mayfield the other day. This is VERY distressing. Fisher I do not know much about. Jeebus, this is distressing.

      • powwow says:

        On that score, it was a bit of a relief to read this from Glenn (drawing on some of his ACLU contacts, I think) in the comment section to his post about this hearing yesterday (especially after listening to the clearly-unprepared, self-indulgent interruptions of Wizner by Chief Judge Kissing…, I mean, Kozinski, and hearing both Paez and Rawlinson asking questions):

        The plaintiffs got the best possible panel they could have gotten — 3 of the 11 Judges are from the 3-judge panel where they won (that’s very unusual; they’ll obviously vote to affirm their ruling) and 2 others are basically 100% for affirming. So that’s 5 definites — and they only need 6. The chances are quite high they will win.

        What they really want, though, is for the Chief Judge (Kozinski, who is a conservative but of the libertarian variety) to vote in their favor — that should make the margin much bigger and could help the Supreme Court refuse to hear Obama’s appeal or rule in their favor if they do. If it’s a 6-5 decision along ideological lines, the Supreme Court is much iffier. — GlennGreenwald

        Judge Hawkins (author of the impressive panel decision) really stood his ground, and might even have elicited some concessions from the cloying Douglas Letter of the DOJ that will work against any attempt by other judges, like Kozinski, to dismiss the whole issue as a question of the Executive Branch prerogative to classify information.

        [By the way, I confused myself in about three different directions trying to sort out the Mayfield panel judges, as reflected in the last comment in your Mayfield Hosing thread. Somehow when clicking on Peterr’s link there (twice) I read a bio of a male “he” judge for Rawlinson, where there is actually a female “she” judge listed (the “Johnnie B.” first name notwithstanding). So, yes, FWIW, I can finally confirm that you were right – with “Johnnie” being the lone female on the Mayfield panel, “Raner” was the other male who hardly said a word, as you had originally surmised.]

        • bmaz says:

          Greenwald is either dreaming or delirious. Kosinski is a flashing red light to SCOTUS; having him on an affirmation means squat. The Supremes like overturning Kosinski even more than they do the 9th as a whole. Rawlinson is a problem, and I say that from her history of law and orderness long before the Mayfield hosing; and the Mayfield bit is just icing on that sour cake. Fisher I just have no book or clue on, and it may well come down to him.

  6. spanishinquisition says:

    Levin is parroting Obama:
    “If so, the perfect would become the enemy of the good. For that reason, I will vote ‘‘no’’ on the Dorgan amendment on this bill.”
    This perfect being the enemy of the good line is Obama’s signature PR phrase to attempt to explain away crappy legislation. Levin is just following Obama’s orders. Before Obama is out of the office, I think people will come to despise that PR phrase as being a pretty way of telling people they’re being served a crap sandwich.

    • Mauimom says:

      Before Obama is out of the office, I think people will come to despise that PR phrase as being a pretty way of telling people they’re being served a crap sandwich.

      I despised it almost the first time I heard it.

    • prostratedragon says:

      Right you are. The phrase already marks cudgel-grabbing time to this people here, but I have a light trigger on that kind of thing.

      Not only do the rejected proposals leave us short of “perfection,” but the remnant of a bill that Levin is so worried might get lost in the shuffle is insultingly far from the “good.”

      You know, when the mandates kerfuffle broke out last year during the campaign, the one thing I was sure of in the end was that somehow we’d find ourselves looking at the ugliest possible version of them soon, complete with accusations that this was “what you wanted.” I haven’t heard any of those yet, but there’s still time.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      Absolutely: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” This seems to be the new Democratic Party sell-out talking point. It’s an arrogant point of view, and one that infantilizes the left who supposedly don’t know better than their pragmatic, wiser elders (or in Obama’s case, their superior).

      Of course, the quote itself originates with Voltaire, who also was known for saying — and let Levin, Obama and the whole rotten bunch add this to their automatic homilies: “Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.”

      I would change the latter, and say, “hold the Democratic and Republican parties in horror.”

      This rump health care bill is a travesty, and a danger to working families and the poor. It will cement defeat for another generation, not give a foundation for greater reform later on.

      I hope Dean, joined by organized labor, help defeat this crappy bill, and give the Democrats a chastened slap to their behinds.

      We’ve got new generals our leaders are new
      They sit and they argue and all that they do
      Is sell their own colleagues and ride upon their backs
      And jail them and break them and give them all the axe…”

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The Democrats are simply cribbing Karl Rove’s playbook, torturing slogans as well, in all likelihood, as prisoners. The old phrase that an obsession with perfection may stifle needed action is anecdotally apt in many instances, but not here. Here, I’d say it is abject surrender to corporate greed that is the enemy of the good.

      • knowbuddhau says:

        I agree about the Dems settling on that phrase as the perfect myth with which to jack public opinion. A different Voltaire quote is one of my mottoes: “In truth, whoever can make you believe absurdities can also make you commit atrocities” (1765).

        As you may know, myth and lie are not the same. A lie is a distortion of factual circumstances. A myth offers a way of being in the world. It’s what is left unsaid, but is heard–or seen–loud and clear, that distinguishes the language of myth from prose.

        Note how it’s similar to, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” An illusion is evoked in the mind’s eye: the perfect; and contrasted with the palpable; without the speaker saying it outright, the unspoken voice says, only a fool goes for an illusion. No wonder authority figures favor it. We’re made to feel better about choosing against our better interests.

        Maybe “A bird in the had is worth two in the bush” will be their next slogan. And of course, we’ll never see those birds, just like we’ll never see any of the other mythical tropes with which we keep getting jacked.

      • bobschacht says:

        I hope Dean, joined by organized labor, help defeat this crappy bill…

        I think they might. Dean’s sudden opposition has created a firestorm that is getting a lot of publicity.

        So what does Gibbs do? Instead of attacking the Republicans or Joe Liarman, he attacks Dean for speaking the truth.

        Bob in AZ

  7. alinaustex says:

    Obama and Crew evidently do not know the sh–t storm that is brewing up over this total sell out to the Healthcare industry .You know if the Whitehouse and other moderates don’t understand how outraged we are -they will by the midterms.
    Seriously lets have an open primary in 2012 -maybe we draft Gov Dean -maybe Sen Feingold ..
    KILL THE BILL ==we are free man and women – we ain’t serfs ….

  8. BoxTurtle says:

    I’m not a politician. I’m not a Doctor. I’m just an unemployed computer engineer.

    But one of the things I’ve learned is when to kill a project and start over. This is one of those times.

    Those opposed spent an amazing amount of money to turn a simple goal into the mishmash the senate proposed. They can’t afford to do that too often. Reagan “won” the cold war by outspending the Soviets. Perhaps we can win this war by forcing Pharma and Insurance to spend all their money.

    It gets even better if we can oust some of their bought and paid for politicians. Then they’ll have to buy new ones. It takes about 4 years for a new Senator to fall into the culture of corruption, about 18 months for a new Rep. That gives us a little time.

    Unfortunately, the public option will lose a supporter when Burris retires and gain a bought and paid for foe unless Rahm loses in a primary.

    Boxturtle (Thinks congress should get whatever health benefit the unemployed get)

  9. Rayne says:

    Now think we should have started with campaign finance reform first. Get the corporate money out of politics. For starters.

    Then remove the anti-trust exemption on insurance.

    In hindsight we needed to unpack and repack this differently if we had a credible chance at winning.

  10. PAR4 says:

    They don’t want a repeat of 1994? That’s fucking hilarious! Remember,you can’t support either major party and consider yourself a ‘Good American’.

  11. madmatt says:

    He’s my senator too, not for long though, fuck you carl…I can see cheap drugs across the detroit river, but thanks to you I can’t buy them.

  12. jididly says:

    I just called Senator Cardin’s office and they responded that he hasn’t released a statement yet on his vote against the Dorgan amendment. I am fuming right now. And he was one of the idiots who supported Lieberman during the chairmanship vote. this is complete and utter bullshit

    • phred says:

      When I called Sanders office this morning to ask about what he plans to do about the mandate, his staffer responded well he’s introducing a single payer amendment today. And I replied, yeah but we both know that won’t pass so we need to figure out what to do about the current legislation. The staffer agreed. She said she doesn’t know what Bernie will do about the mandate, but she said he may vote against the bill since he promised to vote against a bill that didn’t have a public option. I think that was wishful thinking on her part. God love these staffers. I’m sure she wants him to do the right thing as much as I want him to, but I don’t think either one of us believes he will.

      • Leen says:

        The argument that I have heard Obama and Bill Clinton use is “incrementalism”. Health care reform Failed during LBJ, Nixon, Clinton administration

        That the nation can not have what we need all at once. Have heard Obama say this, Clinton shook that famous finger at NN09. “Incrmetalism” But how in the hell do you get from the Insurance Companies controlling all of the new policies to a not for profit health care system or at the very least the public option that would create REAL competition.

        How do you get there with what they are presenting right now?

        I get that we can not have what many of us support…single payer. But how did we get from a public option to a Medicare buy in to private insurance companies making the total deal?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Perhaps middle America now better understands the “incrementalism” arguments Dr. King was embroiled in in the 1950’s. Is it really better if the “whites” or “insuresters” only placards are smaller or on display only every other day?

        • fatster says:

          Yeah. And “health care reform” failed during Clinton and it’s failing during Obama. So much for this incrementalism of which they speak.

          • Leen says:

            I understand how you might get from a medicare buy in to a single payer system.

            But how do you get from what Wendell Potter referred to as “The Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act” to anything else?

  13. ezdidit says:

    Pharmaceutical prices will rise substantially, thus failing a key imperative of the President’s call for “reform.”

    The President is advocating “change.” He is not advocating reform.

    The long march toward the Civil Rights Act for African-Americans took one hundred years from the Emancipation Proclamation.

  14. behindthefall says:

    Medical insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies have conflict-of-interest wired into their skeletons.

    Med. Ins.: “The less we have to pay for care of — yuk! — sick people, the more money we make, ’cause those premiums jus’ keep rollin’.”

    Pharma: “It’s all about sales. Efficacy? Long-term effects? Cost? Unwanted side-effects? Heck, lethal side-effects? We only care about those if you can find a way to cost us more money than we make on sales.”

  15. BayStateLibrul says:

    Just listened to Jay Rock and he was quite good. There are a lot
    of positives in the bill… do we incrementally go forward…
    I’m a fucking Libra and can’t decide…

    • Petrocelli says:

      We’ll be hearing from Richard Trumka & Co. soon.

      I’m sure they have seen more details of this Bill than most of us. Let’s see what they say.

      EDIT: Not that I don’t like, totally trust Nate Silver … /s

    • phred says:

      Fucking JELLO Jay voted down the Dorgan amendment last night. Jay Rock my ass, he is in the tank with the rest of them. I will never never call that worthless put-a-letter-in-a-safe ass covering toady anything other than Jello Jay again and I sure as hell don’t give a damn about his opinion on this bill. I’ve been calling Senators all day telling them to drop the mandate or kill the bill. If I know one thing for damn sure it is that Jello Jay does not have the moral compass nor the backbone to stand up for a principle. He’d sell out his best friend if that’s what the leadership told him to do. Worthless contemptible bastard.

  16. JasonLeopold says:

    OT and I am sure Marcy already has this but more torture docs coming out:

    This just in from the ACLU:

    We’ve received a new batch of documents in our 2008 FOIA lawsuit for records related to CIA torture. Unfortunately, DOJ gave them to us in hard copy and we have just now finished scanning them. Because the file is too big to email, we are working on getting the documents indexed and posted to our site, and I will send around a link as soon as that happens.

    We are currently reviewing all the documents, including 4 longer memos, one of which seems to refer specifically to John Walker. In addition, there is April 2007 testimony of Steven Bradbury to the Senate Select Committee on Intel which confirms the CIA used EITs as late as December 2005. There is also a document revealing that OLC considered incommunicado detention lawful.

    Just thought I would share.

  17. Ishmael says:

    “So now Ameican consumers have to continue to subsidize drug development for the rest of the world (and a great deal of erectile dysfunction ads) so the Obama Administration could buy off the PhRMA.”

    I don’t know if its true that high drug prices in America subsidize drug development in the rest of the world – certainly that’s what the drug companies say, but as you note about the endless Niagara of Viagra ads on TV, they spend a great deal of money on advertising and promotion to physicians and pharmacists, more than they do on research according to some researchers:

    Canada, like most countries other than the US, bans direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs, but we are bombarded by such ads via US cable tv.

    Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the NE Journal of Medicine, in an article from 2004 in the NY Review of Books:

    “And there is nothing peculiarly American about this industry. It is the very essence of a global enterprise. Roughly half of the largest drug companies are based in Europe. (The exact count shifts because of mergers.) In 2002, the top ten were the American companies Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Wyeth (formerly American Home Products); the British companies GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca; the Swiss companies Novartis and Roche; and the French company Aventis (which in 2004 merged with another French company, Sanafi Synthelabo, putting it in third place).[5] All are much alike in their operations. All price their drugs much higher here than in other markets.

    Since the United States is the major profit center, it is simply good public relations for drug companies to pass themselves off as American, whether they are or not. It is true, however, that some of the European companies are now locating their R&D operations in the United States. They claim the reason for this is that we don’t regulate prices, as does much of the rest of the world. But more likely it is that they want to feed on the unparalleled research output of American universities and the NIH. In other words, it’s not private enterprise that draws them here but the very opposite—our publicly sponsored research enterprise.”

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