Big Pharma, Senator Hagan, and the Public Option Health Plan

Things are happening quickly here, so hold on to your pill bottle. Late last week, the Senate Health Committee – on which Senator Hagan sits – put out a proposal for a health reform plan that did include a version of a public health plan option and that Senator Hagan reportedly endorsed. Then President Obama asked national health advocacy groups to stop criticizing Democratic Senators, including Senator Hagan, over the health reform debate as Ceci Connelly reported in the WaPo. Moveon.org, who had been planning to run ads in NC against Hagan’s stance then dropped its plans to do so.

But wait. Faster than you can say “unilateral disarmament”, the pharmaceutical industry spent what is likely hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy TV ads over the weekend in NC praising Hagan for her stance on health reform.

Since Pharma has been utterly opposed to a public option – they are worried what it might do to profits – and, as Adam Linker details below, has hired dream teams of lobbyists to defeat any such proposals, you have to wonder what is going on here. My guess is that the Pharma ads supporting Hagan are meant to curry favor. Hagan sits on one of the two powerful Senate committees dealing with health reform. The proposal the Committee issued last week is only a starting point – over the next few weeks, the other Senate proposals and proposals from the House will have to be combined and compromises will have to be made. Senator Hagan’s voice will be crucial in this debate.

Since Senator Hagan as candidate Hagan less than a year ago was criticizing then-Senator Elizabeth Dole because she “Ranked among the highest recipients of money from the pharmaceutical industry – nearly $300,000…”, having that same industry running ads supporting her puts her in a delicate position to say the least.

I think this tactic by the pharmaceutical industry is just going to backfire. Progressives – who already were worried about Senator Hagan’s unclear statements on a public option in health reform – will likely be even more put off by Pharma-funded ads for the Senator, even if she has tacitly endorsed some sort of public option health plan. The Pharma ads overshadow what good will she has generated with progressives. It’s not much better with the public. Even in NC, big pharma doesn’t have the best reputation, and having your new Senator linked with the industry doesn’t do her any favors.

Real health reform means controlling health costs and that means some major players like the pharmaceutical industry are going to be making less money so we can all afford our health system. That prospect is obviously making many in the industry very, very nervous.


  1. jacksmith

    July 6, 2009 at 5:08 pm


    It’s official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.


    We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.

    And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.

    Progressive democrats the Tri-Caucus and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and request that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).

    Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.

    In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans don’t even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!

    If President Obama has to declare a NATIONAL STATE OF EMERGENCY to rescue the American people from our healthcare crisis, he will need all the sustained support you can give him. STICK WITH HIM! He’s doing a brilliant job.



    Join the fight.

    Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

    God Bless You

    Jacksmith – WORKING CLASS

  2. Lou Meyers

    July 6, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    President Obama can count on us. He knows this.

    The real question is——- when will mainstream media come clean? There were 10,000 fed up Americans at the June 25th DC HCAN rally and not an echo from Big Media. Of course, we are painfully aware that health insurance companies are not really interested in our good health. Now it seems our free press is not quite so free after all. Maybe it is time to clean house and start from scratch. Doctors that heal, media that reports and no health insurance companies. That will work!

  3. hsr0601

    July 7, 2009 at 6:54 am

    People are so worried about losing their job, coverage, denial of treatment, which seems to increase bank deposit latetly. That means stimulus funding mainly goes toward bank deposit for a rainy day increasing jobless rate. It proves again that a healthy society yields better productivity, prosperity.
    It is time to ‘Change’ the notion of the public health as a fundamental human right and install ‘a safety system for all’ like all of the other industrialized nations, I think.

  4. […] Things are happening quickly here, so hold on to your pill bottle. Late last week, the Senate Health Committee – on which Senator Hagan sits – put out a proposal for a health reform plan that did include a version of a public health plan option and that Senator Hagan reportedly endorsed. Then President Obama asked nationaRead more at http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2009/07/06/pharma-senator-hagan-and-the-public-option-health-plan/ […]

  5. […] Adam Searing noted in a previous post, the drug industry lobbying group PhRMA is running ads supporting Senator Kay Hagan. Although I […]

  6. Allen

    July 21, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    FYI: Before you vote for a Government Welfare Health Care Bill…today a report came out that 90 Billion dollars has been lost to incompentent Government handling of Medicare/ Medicade in 2009…Do you really want the Government overseeing your healthcare? Once this Welfare program is in place forget about a private option and welcome in rationing care..

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