President Obama promised that all health care negotiations would be public. Over the course of a year, at campaign appearances, on national TV shows and to newspaper editorial boards, he said that he wanted to "shame" politicians and lobbyists who might otherwise give good deals to drug or insurance companies. It hasn't worked out that way.
At an Aug. 21, 2008, town-hall meeting in Virginia, Mr. Obama promised: "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies -- they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies."
In a campaign ad last fall, Mr. Obama said: "The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies. And you know what? The chairman of the committee, who pushed the law through, went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year. Imagine that."
That's all nice rhetoric, but it doesn't explain Mr. Obama's backroom deal with drug manufacturers. According to the New York Times, the administration promised that whatever industry first reached an agreement over government health care would get "a rock-solid deal." Pharmaceutical companies have agreed to reduce drug prices by $80 billion in exchange for a promise that Medicare will not be allowed to negotiate drug prices further.
The Obama administration is keeping its promise to the drug companies better than its promise to voters. When congressional Democrats last week tried to get even lower prices from the companies, the administration stepped in and told them to back off.
It's disturbing that pharmaceutical companies were forced to lower drug prices. They essentially were threatened with destruction through government-forced lower prices if they didn't agree to help pay for new government programs. That's Chicago-style politics at its roughest. So much for Mr. Obama's promises of transparency.