Saturday, April 04, 2009

Turbulence for Lobbyists

Pharma's position in health care reform ran into some unexpected turbulence on April 2.

A jet from Dulles to the PhRMA annual meeting in San Antonio was forced to drop precipitously from its 30,000 foot cruising height to 16,000 feet due to loss of cabin pressure from a bumpy ride into strong headwinds. The plane was packed with a good portion of the industry's Washington reps who are the front-line troops in the health reform debate.

As the pilot reported, perhaps with too much candor: "I'm sorry we did not keep you informed of the reason for the change in altitude immediately, but things were pretty chaotic up here."

The pilot then told the lobbyist express that the plane would not have enough fuel to fly at the lower level to San Antoni0 -- the lower height causes greater air pressure and resistance.

But after a short time, he changed his mind and his calculations and said there would be enough fuel to reach the destination. "We'll get you there as safely as possible," he said.

Reassuring? Not really -- even though people in pharma recognize the concept of relative safety, balancing risks against intended effect.

The pilot was masterful in his flying skills -- if not messaging. The plane landed safely.

And the passengers. They took the drama with admirable stoicism. Hey, they are health care lobbyists -- used to dramatic shifts in the political winds.

image by flickrer yuan2003 used under a creative commons license

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