Here's the Email That Saved, Ruined Health Care Reform

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For good or bad, a recently published email exchange between the White House and Big Pharma during the height of the 2009 health care reform debate, is one of the most important documents from that epic legislative struggle. Today, The New York Times' Peter Baker sifts through a batch of emails unearthed by House Republicans and spotlights a revealing conversation between a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist and Nancy-Ann DeParle, the president's top health care adviser and, by chance, the wife of Times reporter Jason DeParle. In the 2009 message, DeParle agrees to prevent cheap imported drugs from entering the U.S. market, a guarantee that would save the industry billions and ultimately lock in its support for ObamaCare. "Any progress on the importation front?" writes the lobbyist. "I made the decision, based on on how constructive you guys have been, to oppose importation on the bill." 

Since the release of the emails last week, conservatives have griped about the undue influence the pharmaceutical industry had in the legislation. Baker's piece fills in the gaps on how that bargain, in that single email, was thought necessary for passing the bill. Writes Baker:

Just like that, Mr. Obama’s staff abandoned his support for the reimportation of prescription medicines at lower prices and with it solidified a growing compact with an industry he had vilified on the campaign trail the year before. Central to Mr. Obama’s drive to overhaul the nation’s health care system was an unlikely collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry that forced unappealing trade-offs.

Depending on where you stand, it was either a fool's bargain, cutting off an affordable method of drugs for millions of Americans, or a necessary evil, allowing for the passage of an over-all positive piece of legislation.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.