(The New York Times) – A new trove of emails shows President Barack Obama’s White House agreed to help drug companies block a proposal to bring down medicine prices so they would back Obama’s healthcare plan.
House Republicans obtained the three-year-old correspondence between the Obama administration and representatives of the drug industry and released more of them to the public on Friday, The New York Times reported.
The exchanges show the compromises as they were being negotiated that laid the groundwork for the health care law now awaiting the judgment of the Supreme Court.
The Times reported that in 2009 drug industry lobbyist — concerned after weeks of talks about a proposal for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices — e-mailed White House health care adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle about the matter.
DeParle assured the lobbyist, according to the Times, saying that athough Obama was overseas, White House officials had “made decision, based on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation” on a different proposal.
In the end, the drug industry agreed to provide $80 billion to expand health coverage in exchange for protection from policies that would cost more, the Times reported.
The paper said Obama felt the deal had to be made if he was to be successful in getting his healthcare proposals — nicknamed Obamacare — accepted.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the healthcare industry agreed, as part of the plan, to funnel $70 million to two groups, Healthy Economy Now and Americans for Stable Quality Care, which were running advertisements supporting reform.
The e-mails also reveal discussions about an advertising campaign to support Obama’s health plan. “They plan to hit up the ‘bad guys’ for most of the $,” a union official wrote after an April meeting, according to the Times. “They want us to just put in enough to be able to put our names in it — he is thinking @100K.”
In another email reported by the Times, a drug industry official urged colleagues to sign a joint statement with the White House: “Rahm is already furious. The ire will be turned on us,” it said, referring to former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.
The emails drew fire from Republicans who see the closed-door dealing as hypocritical.
“He said it was going to be the most open and honest and transparent administration ever and lobbyists won’t be drafting the bills,” Rep. Michael Burgess, of Texas, told the Times.
“Then when it came time, the door closed, the lobbyists came in and the bills were written.”
But Democrats hit back. Rep. Henry Waxman of California claimed there is nothing new in the emails. “The Republicans spent over a year on this investigation, received and reviewed countless documents from a dozen different organizations, and conducted multiple interviews — only to learn what was publicly reported years ago,” Waxman said.