Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fwd: qotd: Baucus/Hatch taxpayer gift to Amgen

Quote-of-the-day mailing list

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: qotd: Baucus/Hatch taxpayer gift to Amgen
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2013 11:53:22 -0800
From: Don McCanne <don@mccanne.org>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <quote-of-the-day@mccanne.org>

The New York Times
January 19, 2013
Fiscal Footnote: Big Senate Gift to Drug Maker
By Eric Lipton and Kevin Sack

Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case,
Amgen, the world's largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely
unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the
"fiscal cliff" bill that did not mention the company by name but
strongly favored one of its drugs.

The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicare
price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative
Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients.

The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar
without government controls. The news was so welcome that the company's
chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts. But it is
projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.

Supporters of the delay, primarily leaders of the Senate Finance
Committee who have long benefited from Amgen's political largess, said
it was necessary to allow regulators to prepare properly for the pricing

But critics, including several Congressional aides who were stunned to
find the measure in the final bill, pointed out that Amgen had already
won a previous two-year delay, and they depicted a second one as an
unnecessary giveaway.

Amgen has deep financial and political ties to lawmakers like Senate
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, and Senators
Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah,
who hold heavy sway over Medicare payment policy as the leaders of the
Finance Committee.

Amgen's success also shows that even a significant federal criminal
investigation may pose little threat to a company's influence on Capitol
Hill. On Dec. 19, as Congressional negotiations over the fiscal bill
reached a frenzy, Amgen pleaded guilty to marketing one of its
anti-anemia drugs, Aranesp, illegally. It agreed to pay criminal and
civil penalties totaling $762 million, a record settlement for a
biotechnology company, according to the Justice Department.

Amgen, whose headquarters is near Los Angeles and which had $15.6
billion in revenue in 2011, has a deep bench of Washington lobbyists
that includes Jeff Forbes, the former chief of staff to Mr. Baucus;
Hunter Bates, the former chief of staff for Mr. McConnell; and Tony
Podesta, whose fast-growing lobbying firm has unusually close ties to
the White House.

In some cases, the company's former employees have found important posts
inside the Capitol. They include Dan Todd, one of Mr. Hatch's top
Finance Committee staff members on health and Medicare policy, who
worked as a health policy analyst for Amgen's government affairs office
from 2005 to 2009. Mr. Todd, who joined Mr. Hatch's staff in 2011, was
directly involved in negotiating the dialysis components of the fiscal
bill, and he met with "all the stakeholders," Mr. Hatch's spokeswoman
said, not disputing when asked that this included Amgen lobbyists.

Aides to the senators said some heavy donors had won and others had lost
in the Medicare negotiations — proof that the legislative outcome was
based on the merits. "What is the best policy for Montanans and people
across the country lies at the heart of every decision Chairman Baucus
makes," said Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for Mr. Baucus. "It's as
simple as that."


Comment: With appropriate anger, we can point our fingers toward Sen.
Baucus and his colleagues for their involvement in this corrupt half
billion dollar taxpayer gift to Amgen, a biotechnology company that has
already paid over three-quarters of a billion dollars in penalties for
prior criminal acts to which they pled guilty. Sen. Baucus especially
deserves our ire since he led the process in bringing us the Affordable
Care Act - an act that was designed specifically to serve the financial
interests of the private insurance and pharmaceutical industries, at a
consequential cost to patients and taxpayers.

Of course, Sen. Baucus is not alone in accepting payment in exchange for
favorable legislation. All members of Congress have fundraising
challenges. If you check OpenSecrets.org, you will find that most
members of Congress are tainted, though they vary in their egregiousness.

Who is ultimately to blame? We elect these people. Health care justice
doesn't stand a chance when displaced by the power of greed and
corruption, and we simply turn our backs on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment