Pharma at risk again as reform efforts stall

Proving that Washington is a land of shifting sands, a backlash is growing against the government's cost-cutting deals with pharma and other healthcare groups. Big Pharma, for instance, agreed to slash $80 billion in drug costs from the system, garnering lots of positive press, plus praise from the president. But rest of the country's employers weren't so thrilled; they fear that those costs will just end up shifted to private insurance plans, and employers will foot the bill.

Meanwhile, the administration warns that the current reform bills floating about Congress aren't going to be enough to fix the massive healthcare-cost problem. Budget Director Peter Orszag wrote lawmakers this week, saying that reform efforts are too timid. Lawmakers need to "build upon these measures with additional steps that will help make our healthcare system sustainable," Orszag wrote. Basically, the White House fears that the bills as written are just deck-chair rearrangement on the Titanic costs of healthcare in this country--costs that don't deliver consistent quality or reliable outcomes.

Meanwhile, various groups Congressional reps are weighing in on their specific beefs with the current reform approach, which include an indignant revolt against new efforts for drug-price controls--the very thing pharma wanted to avoid when it agreed to the aforementioned $80 billion in cuts. And former Sen. Tom Daschle is suggesting that President Obama has bent over backward to cooperate with industry, so industry should pay him back by twisting a few arms in the Senate. Obviously, drugmakers are in the thick of things, so stay tuned.

- read the Bloomberg story
- get the post at The Atlantic
- see the Politico article