Fight erupts on Hill over attempt to raise pharma contributions to reform

Right now, the White House expects to fund reform with contributions from several major sectors within the healthcare industry. That includes the pharmaceutical giants, who have agreed to a cut of $80 billion over 10 years on drugs paid for by Medicare and Medicaid.

So far, so good--so how about raising the ante to $106 billion for pharma while they're being so cooperative? Not a good idea, concluded a group of Democratic Senators, who have shot down a proposed health reform bill amendment to raise pharma's contributions.

The author of the amendment had hoped to use the additional $26 million to completely close the "donut hole" payment gap in the Medicare prescription benefit. However, his colleagues decided that pushing pharma further could shatter the already-delicate agreement with drugmakers.

That being said, some Democrats are still planning to push for the expanded pharma cut, political sources say. Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has promised to support such an amendment when the bill gets to the Senate floor.

The question this raises, meanwhile, is whether the Dems are thinking about further cuts to other contributors to the reform pot, notably the hospital industry. After all, one analysis suggests that as things stand, hospitals will actually make billions on reform over time. Maybe they're a better target?

To learn more about this dispute:
- read this Kaiser Health News piece

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