After promising health care execs that Medicare for All was dead, Pelosi's team plans toothless pharma deal

If there's one issue that the Democrats could win votes with, it's limits on pharmaceutical prices, because virtually every American agrees that we're being ripped off by Big Pharma (and that goes double for Obama Democrat voters who switched to being Trump voters in 2016).

But the Democratic establishment doesn't want the Democrats to win, they want Democrats to win without upsetting the donor class, and pharma spends like crazy (I'm looking at you, Other Cory).

Pelosi runs a big organization and it's full of people who have their hearts in the right place on at least one issue, even if they're fatally compromised on other issues. Think of Pelosi health aide Wendell Primus, who hates the pharma industry and its price gouging, but is willing to help kill Medicare for All and replace it with ACA expansion, ensuring that poor Americans are insured by private companies who get to bill the US government virtually unlimited sums in exchange.

But even if Pelosi's staff are good on one issue, that issue will be undermined by someone else in her circle, creating a virtually unbeatable obstacle course for any progressive policy.

Take the pharma deal Pelosi is cooking up: to rein in pharma prices, Pelosi will ask pharma companies to voluntarily enter into a nonbinding arbitration system on pricing. Seriously, that's it: voluntary, nonbinding controls on pricing, versus the vast army of Martin Shkrelis who have already made 2019 one of the worst years for multi-hundred-percent pharma price increases, and it's only been 6 weeks.

The number of Americans who will vote Democrat on the strength of this policy would fit comfortably into an exclusive Caribbean resort (spoiler: they'll all be there this time next year, spending one percent of the bonuses they'll earn if this deal passes). Pelosi's hope isn't that American's will vote Dem after this deal is done -- it's that they won't be so angry over this deal that they'll stay home and let Trump and McConnell win another election.

This is a shitty, self-defeating strategy that will -- no hyperbole -- kill people.

Note that the plan’s “binding” arbitration is actually non-binding, since drug companies can opt out.

The same article says, “Two major concerns are emerging with his push for arbitration. Sources say [Pelosi senior advisor Wendell] Primus is limiting it to a select group of high-cost drugs, instead of developing a broader proposal for all medicines. Additionally, the arbitration process would be voluntary and nonbinding, meaning companies could opt out without consequence” (emphasis added).

Public Citizen’s Peter Maybarduk calls the deal “a total capitulation to pharma from what we can tell.” Social Security Works’ Alex Lawson said, “Poll after poll shows that lowering drug prices is a top concern for the American people. They also show that maintaining access to needed drugs is equally important. … Negotiating with licenses … accomplishes both goals by directly negotiating lower prices without putting patients’ access in pharma’s greedy crosshairs.”

The Pelosi plan appears to be toothless and impotent.

Pelosi Advisor Proposes Non-Binding Arbitration as Road to Lowering Drug Prices [Yves Smith and Thomas Neuburger/Naked Capitalism]

(Image: Dean, CC-BY)