Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Health Reform in Dog Days of August

According to Brady’s Clavis Caldendrum (1813), dog days were evil times when “the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and man had burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

Fast forward nearly 200 years. This sounds like K Street in Washington, the epicenter of the lobbying industry.

As everybody knows, lobbying money may determine health care outcome reform, whether Congressmen and Senators get re-elected in November 2010, and what health industry segments prosper or suffer.

Health Reform Hangs in Balance

This August health reform hangs in the balance. Its fate may hinge on what Congress learns in August recess during boiling hot town meetings, mad confrontations with constituents, and sour economic news. Democrats know full well the credibility depends on successful health reform.

Here is where things now stand, as set forth in an August 3 Wall Street Journal Blog,

Which Health Players Are Spending the Most On Lobbying?

By Jacob Goldstein

"This morning’s WSJ notes that drug makers and energy companies spent big on lobbying in the second quarter of this year. That’s logical, given the big push on energy and health-care legislation.

We were interested to learn more, so we took a look at the list of 20 top spenders on lobbying for the first half of 2009, compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks this sort of thing.

The top spender wasn’t a health-care group, but it’s one that’s been involved in the debate over health reform: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $26.2 million on lobbying so far this year.

Third on the list was PhRMA, the drug industry trade group, which spent $13.1 million. Pfizer was sixth at $11.7 million and Blue Cross/Blue Shield was eighth, at $9.5 million. The ninth-place finisher was another group that isn’t strictly a health-care player, but has been heavily involved in the debate: AARP, which spent $9.4 million.

Hospitals and docs were neck and neck in 12th and 13th place — the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association spent $8.5 million a piece. The Business Roundtable, another big group that’s been active in the health debate, finished 17th at $7.4 million. And Eli Lilly, which spent $7 million on lobbying, was 18th on the list.”

$133 Million in 2nd Quarter

During the second quarter of 2009, the health care industry spent $133 million, surpassing any other industry sector. The pharmaceutical industry, which spent $68 million on second-quarter lobbying, is working fieccely to extend patent protection for biologic drugs and to limit the use of price comparisons in studies comparing the effectiveness of different treatments.

Health insurers have lobbied feverishly against a government-run “public option” for health insurance, an Obama priority lawmakers have moved to dilute or drop altogether.

The Democrats have decided the private health insurance industry is enemy number one, and President Obama is said to remain boiling mad after efforts over insurers’ effort to deny his late mother coverage on the basis of ovarian cancer being a pre-existing condition.

Meanwhile the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats are portraying President Obama and liberal Democrats as “irresponsible” for pouring huge amounts of cash, $787 billion to be precise, into a “failed” stimulus package and for proposing to spend $1.5 trillion into a ten year reform effort without specifying how to pay for it.

This partisan activity will lead a political “hysterics and phrensies” in a mad, mad August. Come September, Senator Charles Schumer says the Democrats will pass a health reform bill no matter what the opposition says.

No comments: