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Text of Shuler/Halvorson Letter to Henry Waxman

FDL has obtained a copy of the letter written by Blue Dogs DLCer Debbie Halvorson and Blue Dog Heath Shuler and signed by 70 Democrats, asking the House committee chairs to substitute the language from the deal that the White House made with PhRMA for Henry Waxman’s language in H.R. 3200. Matt Taibbi writes about it today:

What does this letter say? Does it argue that the PhRMA language is better for America than the Waxman language? Does it say it will cost taxpayers less and provide cheaper drugs to more people? Hilariously, no. What it says is that this PhRMA language, while worse than the Waxman language, is not quite so bad as you think (it doesn’t save as much as the Waxman language, but it still has a 50 percent price reduction, which isn’t terrible!). Moreover, the letter says, substituting this language will help the bill get passed!

PhRMA said it would commence its $150 million advertising campaign today in support of the Baucus bill. Later today it was announced that Baucus would introduce his proposal on Wednesday. They apparently feel like their deal with the White House was effectively memorialized in the Baucus bill.

Text of the letter (PDF):

July 9, 2009

The Honorable Henry Waxman
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Frank Pallone
House Committee on Energy and Commerce
Subcommittee on Health
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Charles Rangel
House Committee on Ways and Means
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Pete Stark
House Committee on Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Health
1105 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Waxman, Chairman Rangel, Chairman Pallone and Chairman Stark:

We have noted with interest President Obama’s and the AARP’s support of the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus’ announcement that he plans to include his Committee’s health reform legislation that will provide a 50 percent discount to most Medicare beneficiaries on brand-name medicines when purchased in the coverage gap, or "doughnut hole."

Like the President, we believe that as we discuss providing coverage for the uninsured, it is also critical that we make needed improvements in current coverage for Medicare beneficiaries. Specifically, we must address their high out-of-pocket drug costs in the Part D doughnut hole. Providing relief to seniors in the doughnut hole has been a priority for Democrats since the enactment of the Part D drug benefit, because research has shown that the gap in coverage often forces them to go without medicines and results in worse health outcomes.

Your efforts to remove this onerous burden on Medicare beneficiaries and their families in the recently unveiled health reform legislation discussion draft are to be greatly commended. However, the commitment by President Obama and AARP to support legislation that would provide a 50 percent price reduction is a dramatic step forward in helping fill the doughnut hole. Equally important, it moves us toward our goal of health reform legislation — to make sure all Americans have access to good, affordable health coverage.

We urge you to substitute the President’s proposal in your health reform legislation discussion draft. Not only would it deliver immediate savings to seniors, instead of slowly phasing out the doughnut hole over 10 years, it would not require the federal government to raise additional revenue, as is the case in the draft legislation This is important because as recently as December 2008 the Congressional Budget Office warned that expansion of drug price controls in Medicare Part D could result in potentially higher premiums for seniors.

We thank you for your diligence in these matters and we look forward to working together on these issues.


Heath Shuler
Mike Ross
Glenn Nye
Michael Arcuri
John Barrow
Jim Himes
Gerry Connolly
Jason Altmire
Steve Driehaus
Lincoln Davis
Christopher Carney
Parker Griffith
Melissa Bean
Larry Kissell
Kathy Dahlkemper
Albio Sires
Allen Boyd
Jim Costa
Kurt Schrader
Leonard Boswell
Walt Minnick
Alan Grayson
Travis Childers
Michael Michaud
Dennis Moore
Corrine Brown
Mike McIntyre
Charlie Melancon
Harry Mitchell
Collin Peterson
Dan Boren
Bill Foster
Paul Hodes
Zachary Space
David Wu
Deborah Halvorson
Donald Payne
David Scott
Charles Wilson
Suzanne Kosmas
Frank Kratovil
Kendrick Meek
Loretta Sanchez
Ann Kirkpatrick
Gary Peters
Hank Johnson
Bobby Bright
Eric Massa
Rush Holt
John Adler
John Tanner
Gregory Meeks
Carolyn McCarthy
Tim Holden
Joe Donnelly
Michael McMahon
Andre Carson
Ben Chandler
Al Green
John Salazar
Bennie Thompson
Sanford Bishop
Scott Murphy
Jim Matheson
Joe Baca
Henry Cuellar
Baron Hill
Daniel Maffei
Wm. Lacy Clay
Adam Smith

As Taibbi notes, the letter did not appear on either Shuler’s or Halvorson’s website, so they must not have been particularly proud of it.

Donald Payne, Bennie Thompson, Eric Massa, Andre Carson, William Lacy Clay, Albio Sires and Corrine Brown are members of the Progressive Caucus and also signed the letter saying that they would vote against any bill that does not have a public option. It will be interesting to see if they sign on to the letter being circulated as part Rep. Grijalva’s whip count effort this week.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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