Senate may not hold to $80B pharma deal

Now even the Senate is backing away from that $80 billion healthcare reform deal with pharma. And not just anybody in the Senate, either: Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the very senator who spearheaded negotiation of that cost-cutting pledge. "That's still in discussion," Baucus told reporters (as quoted by Reuters). "It could be more, but that has yet to be determined."

Feeling betrayed yet? We all know that the price tag of healthcare reform has waxed and waned--mostly waxed--in the House of Representatives, which very loudly exclaimed that it wasn't bound by any industry deal with the Senate. But the Senate seemed to be holding fast. Even after Majority Leader Harry Reid merged Baucus' proposal with another one floating around the Senate, the $80 billion deal appeared safe.

PhRMA, the trade group, says it's still standing behind Baucus and friends, adding that the Senate bill as it now stands would cost the industry about the same amount as initially agreed. But as Reuters notes, some analysts expect that the Senate version will tap pharma for an additional $20 billion.

Even so, PhRMA's Ken Johnson appeared content enough. Whatever the apparent price tag for pharma, the actual cost to the industry will depend on other provisions in the bills, he told Reuters. "We're still within our comfort zone," he said. We'll see how long that lasts.

- read the news from Reuters