Along Washington's ever-winding path toward healthcare reform, there's been another turn against pharma. The latest version of the House reform bill looks to require much more from drugmakers than the pledged $80 billion in cost savings. For one thing, it would mandate Medicaid-style drug rebates on those dual-eligibles in Medicare that we've heard so much about. Plus, it would give Medicare one power the industry abhors: the ability to negotiate drug prices.
Predictably, PhRMA came out firing against the bill. Ken Johnson told the Associated Press that the $80 billion in savings that pharma promised the U.S. Senate and White House isn't "loose change we found sitting around in the sofa," but "a huge amount of money." And he promised that PhRMA and drugmakers would be on the job as the bill comes up for debate, trying to persuade lawmakers to listen to the industry's point of view.
One of the problems appears to be ego-driven, actually: The very deal that pharma made in the Senate inspired House lawmakers to balk. When that $80 billion in cost savings was announced, some leading House members loudly proclaimed that they weren't beholden to those terms. And they put their proposals where their mouths were: According to some estimates, the House bill could cost pharma $125 to $150 billion. It "practically doubles what pharma offered earlier," one analyst told the Wall Street Journal. Politico puts it bluntly: "Drugmakers are... getting shellacked."
Of course, the winding path will continue to wind, and any bill that comes out of the House will have to be reconciled with the Senate version. Reform isn't over until the president adds his signature and hands out souvenir fountain pens.