PhRMA, Families USA Praise Merkley, Wyden

Reformers and drug companies team up to praise Oregon senators in the lead up to a Congressional health reform bill

June 17, 2009 -- Strange bedfellows. That’s how Ron Pollack describes his recent collaboration with the pharmaceutical trade group, better known as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of America.

Together they’re running television advertisements in Oregon congratulating Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley for their hard work to expand coverage to low-income children and for their hard work on healthcare reform. The advertisements are running on major television channels such as CNN for three weeks.
Similar ads are appearing in Nevada and Connecticut – with other states to follow. PhRMA is picking up the entire tab, which could run into the millions. 
“Obviously they have much deeper pockets and can afford to pay the overwhelming costs,” said Pollack, who runs Families USA, which tries to achieve healthcare reform for consumers. Pollack acknowledges he doesn’t see eye to eye with the drug industry -- particularly when it comes to creating a public plan option, which PhRMA disdains – and admitted he’s been criticized for joining forces with the industry.
Yet, he told that the dissenting groups have reached agreement on several key health reform principles: 
  • Increasing Medicaid eligibility to a nationwide floor of no less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level regardless of family status. To be eligible for Medicaid currently, families must earn below 100 percent of the FPL.
  • Provide robust, sliding-scale subsidies for people in families whose incomes are above the Medicaid eligibility cutoff, and
  • Place a cap on out-of-pocket healthcare costs, such as deductibles, copayments and annual or lifetime caps in insurance benefits. 
“We’ve worked out a limited agreement with PhRMA,” Pollack added. “We’re trying to push the key supporters to make healthcare affordable. PhRMA has a great deal of resources. I’m not reluctant to work with them on common ground.”
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