Friday, November 24, 2006

Getting Busy

Yesterday I commented on some of the tactics being used by K Street to make sure it doesn't lose any influence in the new Democratic congress. Most lobbyists have spent the last twelve years working closely with the Republicans to get what they and their clients want, usually leaving Democrats completely out of the loop. Now those lobbyists are faced with a Congress led by the party they shunned.

The first big battle for one of the major industries is over the Medicare Part D program which prevents the federal government from negotiating for the best prices on prescription drugs for seniors. PHARMA has gotten busy, according to an article in today's NY Times.

Hoping to prevent Congress from letting the government negotiate lower drug prices for millions of older Americans on Medicare, the pharmaceutical companies have been recruiting Democratic lobbyists, lining up allies in the Bush administration and Congress, and renewing ties with organizations of patients who depend on brand-name drugs.

Many drug company lobbyists concede that the House is likely to pass a bill intended to drive down drug prices, but they are determined to block such legislation in the Senate. If that strategy fails, they are counting on President Bush to veto any bill that passes. With 49 Republicans in the Senate next year, the industry is confident that it can round up the 34 votes normally needed to uphold a veto.

...The drug industry is anxiously waiting to see details of the Democratic proposal. Lawmakers are weighing several options. At a minimum, Congress could simply repeal the ban on price negotiations, without requiring Medicare officials to do anything. Many House Democrats want to go further. They would direct Medicare officials to negotiate prices for a government-run prescription drug plan, which would compete with dozens of existing private plans.

The government could negotiate prices for all drugs or just for brand-name drugs that have no competition. Alternatively, Congress could require manufacturers to provide a specified discount, so Medicare would get the “best price” available to any private buyer.

The pharmaceutical industry is certainly getting busy, and like most big industries and their lobbyists, it has all sorts of connections with Congress, as is detailed in the article. One of the main leaders for PHARMA is former Congressman Billy Tauzin, who walked into his cushy job shortly after ramming through the current prescription drug plan. Several other former congressmen or staffers are on board with PHARMA or other lobbying firms retained by the industry. The revolving door between Congress and K Street has been whirling pretty effectively, at least so far.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any names yet?

7:04 AM  

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