Keep Your Eye on the Ball
It seems only appropriate, given today's completion of the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black and the start of Wimbledon, to refer to a sports cliché in response to this week's question: Keep your eye on the ball.
Clearly the pharmaceutical industry is focused on the ball, or at least the most important ball for this group: drug companies' long-term financial interest. The pharmaceutical industry is savvy enough to understand the political value and public relations statement it can make by putting its own proposal forward first. This industry knows it must maintain a seat at the health-care reform debate table and must be an active participant in ongoing legislative discussions.
Sitting on the debate sidelines -- or worse yet, being an aggressive opponent of President Obama or congressional leaders -- would be a risky strategy. The pharmaceutical industry recognizes that such a strategy could very well lead to much larger cuts in future prescription drug costs. Better to play in the health-care reform debate now than sit on the sidelines. The pharmaceutical industry deserves political credit for getting out in front of so many other health care industries, much like the breakaway cyclist does when he leaves the peloton behind in the Tour de France. For in today's legislative debate, no single health-care industry will want to be blamed for the potential defeat of health care reform.
I remain open to the possibility that there are other more altruistic policy or public relations reasons for the pharmaceutical industry's proposal to reduce future prescription drug costs by $80 billion over 10 years. Yet my cynicism has the better of me right now. My cynicism tells me that this will not be the last health care industry pronouncement that will grace the front pages of major newspapers or be the subject of so many web postings and blogs. My antenna is up because our political leaders now seem more focused on the overall price tag of health-care reform rather than the overall quality of such reform.
Let's hope that our political leaders keep their eyes on the ball: a quality health-care reform plan that covers everyone.
June 22, 2009; 4:29 PM ET
Health Care Reform
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