Friday, December 11, 2009

Completely Crazy

I can't believe today's wrinkle. Well, okay, yes I can. After all, it's the Congress of the United States. They do things like this.

A Democrat, Senator Dorgan, proposed an amendment permitting drug reimportation from Canada as part of the health care reform package. Reformers love this idea because it will greatly reduce the cost of prescription drugs in the United States.

But Pharma, the lobbying arm of the drug industry (and why do they get to operate as a single entity, in violation of antitrust laws, from which they have no exemption? A story for another day), has a war chest full of money that they've pledged to run ads favorable to health care reform in exchange for their deal with the White House -- they will cut the cost of drugs in the US by $80 billion, but not one penny more. Now, they are making it clear that they will use their war chest to run ads AGAINST reform if reimportation is permitted.

And so the Republicans have jumped on the reimportation bandwagon. After all, if they can kill health care reform by pretending to care about prescription drug costs, that's fine with them.

So now the White House and Senators committed to passing reform are BEGGING Democrats to vote AGAINST reimportation. Indeed, there is now a hold on Senator Dorgan's amendment, so all progress has ground to a complete hault.

And so the Republicans checkmate the Democrats on health reform by being stronger reformers than the Democrats, at least some of whom find themselves having to defend Pharma because doing so is the only hope of getting us to something -- anything. And, of course, we don't even know what that something is any more because the Congressional Budget Office hasn't yet scored (figured out the costs of) the latest compromise, which eliminates the public option in exchange for a nationwide nonprofit plan and Medicare expansion.

And oh -- by the way -- Medicare expansion? Lieberman, Snowe, and others think they might have a problem with that.

No public option. No Medicare expansion. No drug reimportation. I guess it will be good to eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions, but I think Congress probably had the votes for that a long time ago.

Only in Congress. Only in America. Jennifer

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