Medical Industrial Complex Announces $3 Million Campaign to Maim Health Care Reform

A new group that calls itself “Partnership for America” has announced that it will be spending $3 mllion on a campaign to “freeze, investigate and replace’” the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The “Partnership” didn’t come up with this idea on its own. It is backing a bill introduced by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) that would freeze implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act until its full impact can be investigated. Johnson introduced the “Freeze and Investigate Affordable Care Act” (H.R. 3095) on Wednesday. If enacted, the Act would immediately suspend implementation of President Obama’s health care law and require Congress and the President to appoint aAffordable Care Evaluation Commission to study the measure’s impact on patient care, the economy and private-sector job creation.

The group refers to itself as a “grassroots movement.” In fact, as Think Progress reported late this afternoon, it is a consortium of lobbyists and former lobbyists representing the health insurance and drug industries.

Think Progress credits Kaiser Health News with reporting that “the team behind the Partnership for America includes former Republican bureaucrats-turned industry lobbyists Bob Wood, James Capretta, James Wootton and Chuck Cooper.” The leadership biography page on the Partnership for America website lists the men involved, “but makes significant omissions about their current lobbying clients that stand to benefit from the group’s irresponsible repeal campaign,” Think Progress notes.
Here are the facts:

“– Partnership for America leader Bob Wood is a lobbyist whose portfolio of clients include Eli Lilly, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (better known simply as PhRMA, a lobbying association for drugmakers), Select Medical, and XL Health Corp, a Medicare Advantage provider.

“– Partnership for America leader James Capretta is no longer a registered lobbyist, but is currently listed as a “Principle” at a government affairs firm that represents health insurers like CIGNA, UnitedHealth, and America’s Health Insurance Plans (a trade association for the entire health insurance industry).

“Other Partnership for America leaders, like James Wootton and Chuck Cooper, have a history of working for healthcare industry-related interests. Woottoon was a former lobbyist for and an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a trade association with a sordid past of secretly funneling health insurance cash into far right anti-patient and anti-health reform causes. Cooper is an attorney at a law/lobbying firm with an active healthcare practice that has counted PhRMA as a client in the past.”

“Fronts like the Partnership for America thrive when media outlets report on them as bonafide citizens groups,” Lee Fang notes on the Think Progress post.

It is already happening. Earlier today the Sacramento Bee referred to the Partnership as “a new grassroots group devoted to protecting American independence.”

In truth, Fang points out: “It doesn’t appear that there is anything authentic about the organization. Even the office location listed for the group is actually an anonymous mailbox/corporate conference room service two blocks from K Street”.

According to the group, its goal is to “to devise realistic, consumer driven and market-based alternatives to government controlled health care.” Please see my most recent post, “Health Care Reform: The Next Stage” for a discussion of why the notion that a combination of  “consumer-driven health care” and “free market competition” could heal our broken health care system is a fantasy.

We need science, not government to regulate U.S. health care by doing head-to-head comparisons of drugs, devices and medical procedures to show whether new medical technologies really are more effective for patients who fit a particular medical profile. Of course, this would mean that some products and services would be winners, while others (sometimes the most profitable) would be losers. The very idea makes drug-makers, device-makers and some other stakeholders cringe. This is why the Partnership is dead-set against an Independent Payment Advisory Board made up of health care experts. They would be relying on science when making their recommendations. Lobbyists prefer to have these decisions made in Congress where “money talks” and science so often is silent.

As for insurers, they would like to tell you which doctors and hospitals offer the “most efficient, high quality care.” By “tiering” networks of health care providers, and charging lower premiums if you stick to the “top tier,” they hope to drive business to those doctors and hospitals willing to accept lower reimbursements. Ideally, “more efficient” would mean that these providers practice “evidence-based medicine,” avoiding both over-treatment and under-treatment. But do you really trust for-profit insurers to tell you whether the doctor who recommends Drug X  over Drug Y, or the hospital that keeps its cardiac cath lab busy doing angioplasties while it saves money by laying off nurses really is the best? I don’t.

Does this legislation stand a chance of passing? No. At least not while President Obama is in the White House; he would veto it, even if the $3 million could buy enough legislators to put the bill on his desk. (Which I very much doubt.)

But the boldness of yet another attempt to kill health care reform is chilling, particularly when the Partnership talks about the “inalienable rights” guaranteed under the Declaration of Independence. Safe, affordable, effective health care for all American is one of those rights. It’s a prerequisite for pursuing life, liberty and happiness.

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