Drug lobby applauds Senate passage of health-care bill 

The Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), is the largest single-industry lobbying group in America. It represents name-brand drug-makers. Considering this clout, and considering President Obama's claim Monday that the Senate, by passing the health-care bill, was "standing up to the special interests," it's noteworthy that PhRMA this morning celebrated the bill's passage.

Here's the PhRMA press release, with some emphasis added by me:

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.

Obviously, expanding Medicaid eligibility expands the pool of people who get taxpayer-funded subsidies for their drugs. For more explanation of drug-maker gifts in the bill, check my Wednesday column and my blog post from yesterday.

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Timothy P. Carney

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