Nov. 25, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Health Care Probe May Ensnare Jim Messina

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Michael Burgess says he’s gotten “stony silence” from the White House since 2009 on his questions into behind-the-scenes health care law deal-making.

Burgess, while cagey on details of the investigation’s findings, said the deals struck by White House officials with industry lobbyists showed hypocrisy on the part of Obama, who vowed during the 2008 campaign to hold televised negotiations on C-SPAN so the public could see who was making arguments on behalf of whom, including who was negotiating on behalf of drug and insurance companies.

Obama announced an agreement with the pharmaceutical industry in June 2009.

In the deal, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America agreed to $80 billion in revenue cuts for the drug sector over 10 years. PhRMA later pledged $150 million for advertising to support the health care law.

But the details of the deal — and others with industry players — were hazy, and some Democrats questioned whether they were bound by the terms.

A May 16 staff memo from aides to Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) highlighted that “the existence of an agreement or series of agreements between powerful health care industry stakeholders and the authors of [the health care law] is ... widely known — albeit poorly understood.”

The closed-door nature of the talks has provided Republicans with a rallying cry.

“Does that happen in this town all the time? Yeah it does,” Burgess said of the deals. But Obama “stood up there and said, ‘It will be on C-SPAN.’”  

Waxman, who chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee when the law was considered, strongly defended the negotiations as part of lawmaking, but he said the administration could have held out for more from PhRMA.

“Every president makes deals in order to get things passed. That happened when Medicare was adopted and it happened with the Affordable Care Act,” he said.

“I thought that the pharmaceutical industry got a very good deal, and I thought the administration could’ve gotten more from them. But I can understand their point of view — they thought this was a very powerful group that could help them, and it did.”

When Republicans took the House, rather than subpoenaing the White House, Burgess and Upton got the cooperation of six interest groups that negotiated with the White House over the health care law, including PhRMA, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the American Medical Association.

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