Health Insurance Reform and Drug Industry Influence

Health insurance and pharma

One cannot talk about health insurance reform without wondering how broad the drug industry’s role and scope of influence is and will be. One indication is the go-ahead the pharmaceutical lobbyists got this week to spend up to $150 million on television ads that support President Obama’s plan. Consumers can expect to begin seeing the health insurance reform commercials during the month of August.

This announcement comes after the drug makers and White House players came to some agreement in June behind partially closed doors. What Americans were told about the meetings is that the drug industry will contribute $80 billion over a decade to the cost of the health insurance reform. Period, no more money, no more details. And all this after the Obama White House had stated early on that it wanted to keep lobbyists at a distance.

The sound of the pro-Obama plan commercials may be drowned out by the angry and vocal protests taking place at town hall meetings across the nation. Apparently many Americans are not pleased with the lack of coherent answers, the misinformation, and the artful dodging they say they have encountered from some of their representatives when they ask questions about the future of health insurance in this country.

How many Americans oppose the proposed health insurance reform? According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released on August 5, 2009, fifty percent of those questions say they support the president’s plan, and 45 percent are opposed. Younger people are more likely to support the Obama plan while a majority of people older than 50 oppose it.


Yet only one-third of Americans believe Obama’s health insurance reform proposals will provide any help to their families. Another 44 percent say they will not benefit personally but that it will help other families. Twenty percent say the plan will not help anyone.

While Americans are fighting to understand the health insurance reform package, which has yet to be put together and wrapped, another deal will be sealed next week. Top officials of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry’s trade group, will determine the final budget for the television ads.

The proposed $150 million is not the only money the drug industry has thrown into the health insurance reform kitty. It has already contributed an untold amount through advocacy groups such as Families USA and Healthy Economies Now, and also spent an additional $1 million on ads under its own name.

Americans can expect to see some new commercials on the tube over the next few weeks. Opponents of the health insurance reform plan likely do not have nearly the same amount of money to mount a viable counterattack, so things will appear to be one-sided. Of course, there is always the mute button.

CNN Poll, 8/5/09
New York Times, 8/5/09 and 8/8/09