Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drug company deal may give Obama a boost

Drug company deal may give Obama a boost
Deal reached to cut drug costs
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By Ross Colvin
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Monday hailed a deal with U.S. drug companies to cut prescription costs for the elderly, a move that could help him drive his ambitious healthcare reforms through Congress.
"This is a significant breakthrough on the road to healthcare reform, one that will make the difference in the lives of many older Americans," Obama said at the White House of the agreement struck with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America industry association.
Reviving one of his best known slogans from the campaign trail, Obama took aim at naysayers on healthcare reform: "Yes, we can. We are going to get this done."
Obama's healthcare overhaul is his top domestic priority, but it is proving a tough sell to both Democrat and Republican lawmakers in Congress worried about the $1 trillion price tag.
Obama and his fellow Democrats in Congress hope to bring down the long-term costs of healthcare that recent data show are soaring out of control.
Part of that long-term picture is improving the health of Americans and toward that end, Obama on Monday signed into law a landmark bill that gives the U.S. government broad regulatory power for the first time over cigarettes and other tobacco products.
The drug deal, which offers $80 billion in prescription discounts over 10 years to help elderly Americans afford drugs, comes ahead of a week of discussions in Congress on how to pay for Obama's reforms and ensure coverage for the 46 million Americans who do not have health insurance.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Monday pushed ahead with a fiercely partisan debate on the panel's Democratic-written bill. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is expected to continue negotiations on what he hopes will be a bipartisan bill.
But Senator Charles Schumer, a member of the Democratic Senate leadership, said talks on a potential compromise on the government role in covering the uninsured may not produce results agreeable to Democrats who control Congress.
Talks on expanding insurance offerings beyond private insurers have focused on proposed non-profit medical cooperatives instead of a new government plan backed by many Democrats.
"When Republicans talk about the co-op model, it's clear they are not talking about anything close to a national plan with enough clout to keep insurance companies honest," Schumer said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Obama is stepping up efforts to build public support in the facing of mounting Republican criticisms. He will hold a town hall-style meeting on Wednesday to discuss healthcare and also plans a Tuesday news conference at which he likely will talk about his proposed reforms.
It underscores how the president is trying to take control of the debate and personally push the legislative process forward so that he can have a bill on his desk by October.
Republicans argue that a new publican healthcare plan would drive private health care companies out of business. They also argue that plans to provide medical coverage to millions of uninsured people will add to America's huge deficit, a growing worry for investors. Continued...
Source: Reuters

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