Healthcare reform is officially back in play, now that President Obama has put forward his $950 billion plan. Republicans don't like it any more than they liked previous versions of reform, but the proposal could make it through the Senate as a budget-reconciliation measure with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60-vote supermajority. But will it make it through that process? And will the White House's changes be enough to get a majority in the House?
All that remains to be seen. What we do know is that Obama's proposal would require $90 billion worth of sacrifice from drug companies, rather than the $80 billion in the Senate's original bill. But by extending insurance coverage to millions of now-uninsured Americans, the proposal would offer pharma millions of new customers. And experts have said that the newly insured would more than offset the $90 billion in cost cuts and fees. Not to mention the closing of the Medicare Part D "donut hole," which could inspire seniors to keep refilling their scrips.
There's another new wrinkle, however: A ban on "pay-for-delay" deals with generics makers. The provision would outlaw any deal through which a generics company gets something of value from a branded drugmaker in return for backing off of development or marketing of a copycat drug. Drugmakers can get around the ban by jumping through a bunch of "pro-competitive" hoops. With branded drugmakers facing plenty of new generic competition in the next few years, the prospect of more might undermine pharma support of the plan.
Next up: Thursday's bipartisan summit, which will bring together leaders of both parties to attempt some sort of agreement. Will Republicans put forth their own reform plan? Could there be a meeting of the minds? How will the pharma industry respond? We'll have to wait and see.