NYT: Drug industry pushed Obama

WASHINGTON After weeks of talks, drug industry lobbyists were growing nervous. To cut a deal with the White House on overhauling health care, they needed to be sure that President Obama would stop a proposal intended to bring down medicine prices.

On June 3, 2009, one of the lobbyists e-mailed Nancy-Ann DeParle, the presidents health care adviser. Ms. DeParle reassured the lobbyist. Although Mr. Obama was overseas, she wrote, she and other top officials had made decision, based on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation on a different proposal.

Just like that, Mr. Obamas staff signaled a willingness to put aside support for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices and by doing so solidified a compact with an industry the president had vilified on the campaign trail. Central to Mr. Obamas drive to remake the nations health care system was an unlikely collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry that forced unappealing trade-offs.

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The e-mail exchange three years ago was among a cache of messages obtained from the industry and released in recent weeks by House Republicans including a new batch put out Friday detailing the industrys advertising campaign supporting Mr. Obamas health care overhaul. The broad contours of his dealings with the industry were known in 2009, but the newly public e-mails open a window into the compromises underlying a health care law now awaiting the judgment of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Obamas deal-making in 2009 represented a pivotal moment in his young presidency, a juncture where the heady idealism of the campaign trail collided with the messy reality of Washington policy making. A president who had promised to negotiate on C-Span cut a closed-door deal with a powerful lobby, signifying to disillusioned liberal supporters a loss of innocence, or perhaps even the triumph of cynicism.

But the bargain was one that the president deemed necessary to forestall industry opposition that had thwarted efforts to cover the uninsured for generations. Without the deal, in which the industry agreed to provide $80 billion to expand coverage in exchange for protection from policies that would cost more, Mr. Obama calculated he might get nowhere.

Throughout his campaign, President Obama was clear that he would bring every stakeholder to the table in order to pass health reform, even longtime opponents like the pharmaceutical industry, Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director, said Friday. He understood correctly that the unwillingness to work with people on both sides of the issue was one of the reasons why it took a century to pass health reform.

Republicans see the deal as hypocritical. He said it was going to be the most open and honest and transparent administration ever and lobbyists wont be drafting the bills, said Representative Michael C. Burgess of Texas, a Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee examining the deal. Then when it came time, the door closed, the lobbyists came in and the bills were written.

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NYT: Drug industry pushed Obama

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