Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Medical Industrial CONGRESSIONAL Complex


WaPo | Vilified by lawmakers from both parties for months, the health-care industry this year appeared to face an existential threat to its business model.

But this week, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, insurance companies and medical device manufacturers practically ran the table in Congress, winning hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks and other gifts through old-fashioned lobbying, re-exerting their political prowess.

“It’s the ‘no special interest left behind bill’ of 2019. That’s what it feels like this is,” said Andy Slavitt, a former health administrator who served in the Obama administration. “There’s no other explanation.”

Support came from virtually every corner of Congress.

A bipartisan push to curb the practice of surprise medical billing was delayed until next year, with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) working behind the scenes to raise objections to the package, according to three people familiar with the talks who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of private negotiations.

A bipartisan bid to rein in prescription drug prices failed to advance, as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for blocking the effort.

Pharmaceutical firms also won extended protections for select patents, as lawmakers tucked 17 words into Page 1,503 of a bill that critics allege could amount to billions more in profits for the industry.

And through a flurry of letters and targeted meetings with freshman House Democrats, the health-care industry ginned up broad support for repealing taxes that were central to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of the law’s architects, agreed to go along.

The success shows how formidable the health-care industry remains, able to overwhelm Democrats with well-honed talking points and splinter Republicans through a concerted push.