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House Energy And Commerce To Probe White House Health Care Deals

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up a bill tomorrow that would require the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services to deliver all documentation to Congress about the deal made between the White House and various stakeholders on health care reform. The bill, H. Res. 983, was introduced by Republican Michael Burgess.

The documents sought include information on any agreements with the following:

“the Advanced Medical Technology Association, the American Medical Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the American Hospital Association, or the Service Employees International Union regarding decreasing by 1.5 percentage points the annual health care spending growth rate or policy proposals to accomplish this goal.

Chairman Henry Waxman previously led the House Oversight Committee and has a productive history with probes of this nature. Waxman has been critical of the deal with the pharmaceutical industry in particular.

President Obama has acknowledged that health care negotiations have raised “legitimate concerns” about transparency and process, and anecdotally, backroom deals with other stakeholders, like Senators seeking goodies for their states, have placed a patina of corruption over health care reform that has significantly depressed public support. Obama vowed to discuss this at the State of the Union Address.

OBAMA: You know, I think your question points out to a legitimate mistake that I made during the course of the year, and that is that we had to make so many decisions quickly in a very difficult set of circumstances that after awhile, we started worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right. But I had campaigned on process. Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up transparency and I think it is — I think the health care debate as it unfolded legitimately raised concerns not just among my opponents, but also amongst supporters that we just don’t know what’s going on. And it’s an ugly process and it looks like there are a bunch of back room deals.

Now I think it’s my responsibility and I’ll be speaking to this at the State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn’t run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more.

What he may not want to do is open up the entire process of dealmaking and the purchase of stakeholders in exchange for public support, but that’s what the Energy and Commerce Committee, essentially, is seeking.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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