Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has come under fire from his fellow GOP candidates for signing a mandate that required teenage girls to get HPV vaccines, despite his staunch public opposition to government interference in health care. The HPV mandate became even more damaging after it was revealed that Merck, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the vaccine, was a major donor to Perry, and that a lobbyist who represented the company now heads a pro-Perry Super PAC that vowed to raise $55 million to support the governor’s presidential bid.
Now, the Center for Public Integrity reports on another troubling health care mandate Perry signed into law after receiving considerable funds from a pharmaceutical company that stands to benefit from it:
The 2009 measure, the Texas Heart Attack Prevention Bill, requires insurance companies to pay for CT scans and ultrasound tests that can detect heart disease. [...]
It was sponsored by a Democratic lawmaker who suffered from heart disease, and was promoted by a controversial medical group with a history of ties to Pfizer, which makes the cholesterol-lowering drug, Lipitor. Critics say Pfizer, a major Perry contributor, could benefit from the legislation because the mandated test would likely uncover more people with heart problems, who might then be prescribed Lipitor.
Perry received more money from Pfizer than any other political candidate nationwide over the past six years, campaign finance reports show. The company also contributed more than $2 million to the Republican Governors Association between 2006 and 2011, during which time Perry served two terms as the association’s chairman and also as finance chair.
Moreover, the measure was pushed by a group of what one prominent cardiologist called “shameless self-promoters,” several of whom also stood to benefit finally from the mandate.
But perhaps more troubling than the crony capitalism allegation is the fact that the mandate was “a terrible waste of health care dollars,” as one expert put it, at a time when state health budgets are strapped. “There is little evidence that the tests [Perry mandated] can improve people’s health,” experts said. Rather, they drive up health care costs by leading to unnecessary procedures and prescriptions. Many national health experts “sharply criticized” criticized the decision at the time, and have continued to rail against it since.
Perry claims to be against legislative intervention in health care, calling the Affordable Care Act an “unconstitutional and unsustainable government takeover,” but Texas has the most health insurance mandates than all but three other states. Even the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, which has advised Perry, has criticized the amount of requirements on health insurance providers in the state.
It’s telling that while Texas highest level of residents lacking heath insurance, Perry focused on this unnecessary mandate that will do little help outcomes but may helps donors.