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The Washington Independent

Who Struck That Deal With Big Pharma Anyway?

While we’re on the topic of that $80 billion deal struck between Democratic leaders and the nation’s drug makers, it’s worth clarifying how it came to be. Many

Elisa Mueller
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Dec 17, 2009

While we’re on the topic of that $80 billion deal struck between Democratic leaders and the nation’s drug makers, it’s worth clarifying how it came to be. Many in the press have reported that the deal originated in the White House, which is perfectly understandable because it was President Obama who announced the agreement in June.

Yet two days before that high-profile White House announcement, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) was trumpeting the fact that he had negotiated the deal. There were no secrets being kept here. Indeed, here’s part of Baucus’ June 20 statement:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced he secured an $80 billion commitment from the pharmaceutical industry to reduce Medicare prescription drug costs for seniors. The deal struck by Baucus and the nation’s pharmaceutical companies with the participation of the White House includes a provision to narrow the gap in coverage, often called the “doughnut hole,” with payments from the drug companies to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of brand name medicine in Medicare’s Part D prescription drug program.

So it was Baucus to cut the deal and the White House to endorse it. OK, fine. What makes this notable is that Baucus more recently seems to have forgotten that he was the primary negotiator on behalf of the Democrats. For example, when the Finance Committee shot down an amendment to the health reform bill that would have fully closed the doughnut hole, Baucus voted against it because he said it would undermine the deal with Big Pharma — a deal he placed squarely on the shoulders of the administration.

“We have to find some other time, some other way [to close the doughnut hole],” Baucus said. “The White House did reach an agreement.”

It’s worth remembering that, as Senate leaders are now promising to close the doughnut hole 100 percent, it was those same leaders who limited their options in paying for it.

Elisa Mueller | Elisa Mueller was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to a mother who taught reading and a father who taught film. As a result, she spent an excessive amount of her childhood reading books and watching movies. She went to the University of Kansas for college, where she earned bachelor's degrees in English and journalism. She moved to New York City and worked for Entertainment Weekly magazine for ten years, visiting film sets all over the world.


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