Medicare Part D Planners Now Fighting Health Insurance Reform

At least 25 former federal officials and legislative aides who helped draft the 2003 Medicare Part D drug benefit are now working as lobbyists for pharmaceutical interests trying and protect the lucrative drug payment system in negotiations for health care reform. In 2008, the House Committee on Oversight found that Medicare Part D delivered a bonanza to pharmaceutical companies by allowing them to charge the government about 30 percent more for drugs through Part D than for drugs for people in the Medicaid system. Pharmaceutical industry lobbyists are working against the House version of the current health care reform bill, which requires drug companies to give up some of their Medicare Part D windfall. The list of public officials-turned-health care-lobbyists includes former Senator John Breaux (D-Louisiana), who fought against allowing the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare Part D, former Senator Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma) who helped negotiate the final version of Part D, then left to form his own lobbying firm, and Thomas Scully, the former head of Medicare, who also helped design Part D. The passage Part D was surrounded in scandal. In violation of House rules, Congress members were given less than 24 hours to go through the 850-page bill before the vote was called. The Bush administration also deceived Congress about the bill's likely cost, and Scully was granted a special waiver from ethics rules that allowed him to negotiate a future lobbying job with pharmaceutical interests at the same time he was also pushing the drug bill.