Reform news quickens as vote nears

We're getting dizzy, what with all the healthcare reform stories whizzing past our heads these days. There's so much going on, it's hard to keep track of just where reform stands--and just where pharma stands within it. So, here for your perusal is a quick roundup of today's developments.

  • Who stands at the center of the reform maelstrom? White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Or so says Bloomberg, which quotes a nifty little anecdote about Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler's (photo) calling up Emanuel when the House was threatening to take a big chunk out of pharma back in October. To hear Bloomberg tell it, Emanuel intervened to save the $80 billion cost-cutting deal pharma had previously struck. Piece
  • Democrats are vowing to close the Medicare Part D "donut hole." Pharma's $80 billion deal included moves to that end, namely a 50 percent discount on branded meds in the coverage gap. But Congress aims to go further--and pharma may end up paying the bill. Lawmakers want to cut the donut hole to $500 immediately and get rid of it completely over the next 10 years at a cost of $20 billion. More
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid still lacks one vote to pass healthcare reform legislation. One potential vote: Sen. Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat from Nebraska who's the only undecided member of the Democratic caucus. President Obama personally urged him to vote for reform, but Nebraska's Republican governor urged him to oppose it because it would cost the state money. Article
  • An analysis of pharma donations to Congress found that Senate Dems who voted against reimportation got an average of $73,729 from the industry over the past six years, 70 percent more than the $43,446 collected from pharma by those voting in favor. Among both Democrats and Republicans, the spread was $85,812 for the No votes and $51,803 for the Yes's. MAPLight release
  • The single-payer proposal backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont died yesterday. Sanders vowed it would return when the realization dawns that private insurance companies "are no longer needed." Story

Stay tuned; with the White House and Democratic leaders pushing for a vote before Christmas, there's sure to be lots of action over the next several days.