Los Angeles Times Examines Impact of Republican-Controlled Congress on Drug Industry
The Los Angeles Times today looks at how the drug industry appears "positioned to reap the rewards of the election returns" more than any other business sector because of its campaign spending. As of June 30, drug and nutritional supplement manufacturers ranked ninth out of more than 80 industry groups for direct contributions to congressional campaigns and political parties; 73% of the drug industry's $18.1 million in donations went to Republican candidates or party committees. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America spends "tens of millions of dollars" on print and television ads to lobby Congress and boost candidates' campaigns; an industry official said that a report saying the group spends $30 million a year on ads is "not inaccurate." Further, the United Seniors Association, a senior advocacy group that is "almost entirely" funded by PhRMA and drug companies, spent more than $12 million on advertising for mostly Republican candidates during the campaign's closing weeks. The Times says that total contributions from the drug industry are likely to be even higher as Federal Election Commission campaign contribution records from the last four months become available. All this spending has "paid off," Robert Blendon, a health policy professor at Harvard University, said, noting that drug company contributions were aimed at assuring that any drug benefit added to Medicare would be administered by private insurance companies, a proposal favored by most Republicans. The outcome of the elections -- a Republican-controlled Congress -- makes such a benefit virtually "settled," the Times reports. The House approved such a benefit, but the Senate has not yet approved a Medicare drug benefit.
The election also makes it more probable that Congress will not approve price controls on drugs, patent reforms or reimportation regulations. Drug companies "are direct beneficiaries of the outcome of the election," Blendon said. The Republican-controlled Congress also could be favorable for insurance companies because it will be more likely to approve tax credits to help the uninsured purchase health coverage and less likely to approve a reauthorization of the 1996 mental health parity law, which requires health plans to equally cover treatment for mental and physical ailments. Republicans also will be less likely to push for a patients' bill of rights that would allow HMO subscribers to sue their health plans. Doctors also might benefit from a Republican-controlled Congress, which could approve limits on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and higher Medicare payments (Kemper, Los Angeles Times, 11/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.