Thursday, August 27, 2015


John Goodman reviews Steven Brill's America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, And The Fight To Fix Our Broken Healthcare System;
On the campaign trail, the president had pledged: “We’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who [is] making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies.”

It was not to be, says Brill. Instead, key players in health care reform met behind closed doors in what years ago would have been smoke-filled rooms. Everyone knew that if you weren’t at the table you were going to be on the menu, reminding the unwary of the saying that “laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made.”
The chefs included Montana's Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Finance Committee, who had calculated that the new law would benefit the pharmaceutical industry to the tune of $200 billion over ten years. So Baucus wanted to capture some of that windfall in the Crony Capitalism's Affordable Care Act. He proposed that there be lower drug prices under Medicare and Medicaid, and taxes on pharma revenues, of about $130 billion. But;
[Former congressman] Billy Tauzin, then head of the pharmaceutical trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), also came ready to deal: $80 billion in concessions was his bottom line, and he wasn’t going to budge. Ultimately, Tauzin prevailed, and Brill explains why: To have any chance of legislative success, the Democrats needed sixty Senate votes. Without PhRMA, Tauzin knew they would never get there.
Similarly, other health care interests had power to monkey wrench the bill;
Health care special interests as a whole spend four times as much as the military-industrial complex on lobbying and campaign contributions, writes Brill.
And, while officially, the main lobbyist for health insurers, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) supported President Obama's plan, Brill reveals that the “big five” carriers—Aetna, Cigna, Humana, UnitedHealthcare, and WellPoint—secretly contributed $86 million to a US Chamber of Commerce effort to derail the act.

Which might be why there are so many Jaguars in Washington DC;
In the District of Columbia, the Jaguar XK sells at 752 percent the national average. Four premium vehicles, including the Jaguar XK, Aston Martin Vantage, Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and Jaguar XJ, all have market shares in the District of Columbia more than six times their national averages.
Thanks to Craig Newmark for that last bit of trivia.

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