Friday, August 14, 2009

“You Don't Cut Deals with the System that Has to Be Replaced”: Ralph Nader on Secret White House Agreements with the Drug Industry


The Obama administration admitted last week it promised to oppose proposals to let the government negotiate drug prices and extract additional savings from drug companies. In return, drug companies reportedly pledged to reduce costs by up to $80 billion. The White House has tried to back off the reported agreements, but the drug industry says it expects the White House to uphold its pledge. We speak to former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

President Obama is headed to Belgrade, Montana today and Grand Junction, Colorado tomorrow for a pair of town hall meetings on his healthcare reform legislation. The meetings are part of a final public relations push by the president to answer critics of reforming the healthcare system before the Obamas go on vacation.

While much of the media coverage has focused on right-wing criticism of the bill, there is also growing concern by advocates of reform that the Obama administration has secretly made concessions to the healthcare industry and pharmaceutical industry.

A recent article in Business Week was titled "The Health Insurers Have Already Won." The piece details how UnitedHealth and rival carriers have maneuvered behind the scenes in Washington and shaped health-care reform for their own benefit.

Meanwhile the Huffington Post has obtained a memo that shows the White House and the pharmaceutical lobby have secretly agreed to precisely the sort of wide-ranging deal that both parties have been denying over the past week.

The memo says the White House agreed to oppose any congressional efforts to use the government's leverage to bargain for lower drug prices or import drugs from Canada—and also agreed not to pursue Medicare rebates or shift some drugs from Medicare Part B to Medicare Part D, which would cost Big Pharma billions in reduced reimbursements.

In exchange, PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Association agreed to cut $80 billion in projected costs to taxpayers and senior citizens over ten years.

On Thursday NBC reporter Chuck Todd questioned White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the White House-PhRMA deal.

To talk more about the healthcare legislation we are joined by former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader.

Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate.

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