Thursday, January 28, 2010

Health Care Reform: Words, Words, Words

We said we had a sense of deja vu going into the State of the Union, but this is ridiculous.

Last night, President Barack Obama devoted 516 words to his call to finish work on health care reform, about five minutes of the talk. That is about 7.2% of the total 7, 127 State of the Union address he delivered. Remarkably, it is exactly the same portion of the speech that he devoted to health care in his first address to Congress 11 months ago (427 out of 5,923 words, if you are keeping score.)

And its about half the percentage that health care represents of the economy.

Stirring though the words may have been, their relative dearth suggests health care is hardly a make-or-break issue for 2010.

All of which means, Big Pharma has to think seriously about the consequences if Obamacare goes away.

Yes, it has reached the point where the US brandname pharmaceutical industry is hoping against hope that it can get someone to take $80 billion.

The famous deal between the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America and the White House, which we dubbed "dollars for donuts," is up in the air, just like everything else related to health care reform.

AstraZeneca CEO and PhRMA board Chairman David Brennan made that clear at a press conference today tied to the company's year-end financial report. To Brennan's credit, he has said all along that the prospects for reform are uncertain, and today he underscored that things are more uncertain than ever.

And, in case there is any doubt, the collapse of health care reform would be a bad thing for Big Pharma. It is not just what won't happen--no bolus of newly insured customers, no filling in of the donut hole, no reduction in cost-sharing for existing insured, no new IP protection for biological therapies.

It is also what will happen. It is not like Pharma will just get to keep its $80 billion.

To us, the most important words for industry in the entire address weren't in the health care section at all, but earlier--when Obama called on Congress to tax overseas earnings. A year ago, Obama wanted to use that idea as a way to pay for health care reform, and that--maybe more than anything else--explains the deal PhRMA struck with the Administration. Industry came to the table, and the tax deferral on overseas earnings was taken off of it.

Not any more.

"To encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders," Obama said last night, "it's time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs in the United States of America."

It took just 42 words to express that thought. But those are the words that could really count.

1 comment:

Fred Nelson said...

Bingo.... In Vivo get's it right. The Loss of HC Reform is NOT good for Pharma due to the loss of the uninsured population.

However, As I blogged last week, I doubt Pharma will get to keep all of that $80 billion pledge. With a HC Reform piece meal approach on The HIll, which I believe will likely happen, the Donut Hole is likely to be filled at the expense of the Pharma Industry. Why... KFF found that almost 2/3s of the population support removing the Donut Hole in a recent poll and, as we all know, the public isn't exactly in love with Pharma. Mid-term elections are less than 10 months away... Politicians both Dems and Repubs will certainly want to show some progress. Look out folks... here comes the Jelly!