During today’s RNC debate, some Republicans expressed frustration over candidate Maria Cino’s past as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, accusing the former Bush administration official of lobbying on behalf of ‘Obamacare.’ In June of 2009, Pfizer, along the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PHRMA), agreed to provide $80 billion worth of discounts on brand-name drugs over 10 years to seniors who fall within the ‘doughnut hole’ not covered by Medicare. In return, Democrats resisted pushing proposals that would have used the government’s purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices.
Pressed on her role in helping secure the deal — which also kept PhRMA from lobbying against reform — Cino insisted that she worked to promote “innovation” and Republican ideas:
CINO: I think that noone wants to go to a government-run health care system. I think that we’ve seen what has happened overseas, particularly in Europe and I’m proud to say this last year, I worked with our Republican members in the House and in the Senate. I worked against death panels and rationing. I worked to reform malpractice suits. I worked to make sure that innovation was rewarded and I worked to increase intellectual property protection.
[Audible crowd protest]
CINO: No, I did not, I worked for the Republican principles that I just mentioned.
Conservative blogs have criticized Cino for her Pfizer connections since she announced her candidacy in early December, but have failed to explore how health care repeal would benefit Cino’s former employer. The Wall Street Journal noted this morning that pharmaceutical companies stand to gain millions of dollars if the law is repealed and they’re off the hook for closing the doughnut hole in Medicare Part D:
The Republican gains in Congress in November’s election added new questions to the outlook for health-insurance costs borne by companies. Since then, some party leaders have said they aim to reverse or at least starve the Obama health-care law; meantime, lawsuits challenge some aspects of it. “You don’t know where it’s going to go,” said Robert J. Olson, CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc., a maker of motor homes.
For many pharmaceutical companies, the health-care law will be 2011′s biggest challenge. The closing of the “doughnut hole,” a gap in Medicare Part D prescription-drug coverage, will cost drug makers revenue and profit because they must give a discount on brand-name drugs for people who fall in the gap.
Dave Holveck, CEO of Endo Pharmaceutical Holdings Inc., estimated that closing the Medicare hole will cost his company between $20 million and $30 million in annual revenue.
As Merrill Goozner put it, “Repeal the law and that’s $20 to $30 million that will come straight out of senior citizens’ pockets. I suspect most senior voters, who disproportionately supported Republicans and their call to repeal health care reform, were not aware they were voting for higher drug prices. Democrats in the coming weeks will undoubtedly be telling them about that consequence of reform’s repeal.”