Campaign Contributions and Prescription Drugs - 2007
Campaign Contributions and Prescription Drug Coverage
The cost of prescription drugs keeps increasing, particularly for our nation's older Americans. Some four million seniors lack credible prescription drug coverage.[i] Many seniors, particularly those with low incomes who rely on Social Security to make ends meet, use the Medicare Part D government drug program to get needed prescriptions. They faced drug price increases almost four times faster than overall inflation rates between February 2006 and 2007.[ii] With 46 million uninsured Americans[iii], and millions more who do not receive sufficient coverage, affordable prescription drugs would benefit many Americans. Yet year after year, the cost keeps going up.
Meanwhile, the highly profitable pharmaceutical industry continues to successfully lobby Congress to reject attempts to bring prices under control. That many lawmakers are beholden to the industry should be no surprise, given how generously it funds their campaigns. Pharmaceutical manufacturers gave more than $92 million to federal campaigns from 1989 to 2006 with 72% of contributions going to Republicans.[iv]
The drug industry flexed its muscle with the passage of the 2003 Medicare Prescription Drug Modernization Act. This law contained the controversial Part D pharmaceutical coverage provision, which created a financial "doughnut hole" for prescription drug coverage of commonly used drugs. This means that after a senior citizen has spent $2,250 on prescriptions, the senior must spend $2,850 out of his or her own pocket before qualifying for more coverage.[v]The Kaiser Family Foundation projects that by the end of 2007; more than three million Medicare beneficiaries will have prescription drug costs that will land them in the "doughnut hole".[vi] The new law does not allow Medicare to negotiate with drug manufacturers for lower prices, which leaves seniors at the mercy of the pharmaceutical companies. Insurance companies operating under Medicare are paying close to 70 percent more for drugs than the Veterans Administration or countries that negotiate drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry.[vii]
In the lead up to the law's passage, in addition to campaign contributions, the industry spent $141 million on lobbying, hiring 952 individual lobbyists, nearly 10 for every U.S. senator, according to Public Citizen.[viii]
- In the House, the 220 congressmen who voted "yes" for the new law received an average of $27, 616, while the 215 congressmen who voted against the Medicare bill received only an average of $11, 308.[ix]
- In the Senate, 54 senators voted "yes" receiving an average of $52,049 whereas the 44 senators who voted against the bill received an average of only $30,320.[x]
In the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives voted 255-170 to allow the government to negotiate lower covered Part D drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Once again, the money-bias for lawmakers voting in the interest of pharmaceutical companies was clear.
- In The 170 congressmen voting against the bill averaged $16,304[xi]each in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers.
- The 255 members who voted for the bill received an average of only $5,959.[xii]
- The Senate version of Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act that passed in the House failed to even reach a vote. Senators who killed the bill by defeating a cloture vote received, on average, $2,200[xiii] more in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry than those who wanted to vote on the bill.
What We Can Do
Full public financing of elections, or Clean Elections, already law in Maine, Arizona, New Mexico, North Carolina, New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut cuts the ties between special interest money and public policy by allowing candidates to run for office without seeking large contributions from an elite and wealthy few. Instead, candidates are asked to demonstrate broad public support by gathering a number of small dollar contributions (usually $5) from voters and agreeing to abide by spending limits and forgo further private contributions. In return they receive a grant from the state to run their campaign, and if they are elected they head to the statehouse accountable primarily to the voters who elected them, not the special interests who would have financed their campaign.
In 2003, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano introduced the CoppeRx Card to help seniors and the disabled with prescription drug coverage. She later said that Clean Elections helped her do it. "If I had not run clean, I would surely have been paid visits by numerous campaign contributors representing pharmaceutical interests and the like, urging me either to shelve that idea or to create it in their image. All the while, they would be wielding the implied threat to yank their support and shop for an opponent in four years."[xiv] By 2006, when Governor Napolitano opened the discount drug program to all Arizonians, more than 54,000 people carried the CoppeRx Card in Arizona, and they have saved almost $15 million on prescription drugs.[xv]
In 2004, Maine implemented a new prescription drug program, Maine Rx Plus, which provides discounts to Maine residents without prescription drug coverage. The program allows the state to negotiate prices with drug manufacturers to give residents up to 60% discount on prescription drugs.[xvi] Between January 2004 and July 2005, Maine Rx Plus had enrolled more than 90,000 people and filled 276,380 prescriptions.[xvii]Senate Majority Leader Sharon Treat credited Clean Elections as one of the reasons the prescription drug program passed the Maine Legislature explaining that legislators spend less time fundraising so they have time to hear from the people who care about health care and prescription drug coverage[xviii].
If you want to see a Congress that is indebted to voters rather than the pharmaceutical industry, work to pass Clean Elections in your state and at the national level. Clean Elections would ensure that well qualified candidates can run for office and create a government responsive to the needs of its citizens without relying on special interest cash.
[i] "Prescription Drug Trends." Kaiser Family Foundation, May 2007
[ii] Families USA report: Medicare Part D Drug Prices are Climbing Quickly, April 2007
[iii] US Census Bureau News: Income Climbs, Poverty Stabilizes, Uninsured Rates Increase, August 29, 2006
[v] Families USA report: Coverage Through the Donut Hole Grows Scarcer in 2007
[vi] "The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit". Kaiser Family Foundation, June 2007
[vii] "Negotiating Prices with Drug Companies Could Save Medicare $30 billion". Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 7, 2007
[viii] "The Medicare Drug War: An Army of Nearly 1,000 Lobbyists Pushes a Medicare Law that Puts Drug Company and HMO Profits Ahead of Patients and Taxpayers" Public Citizen's Congress Watch, June 2004
[ix] Analysis by Public Campaign of U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) data coded by industry by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org) from 1999-2003. Includes contributions from individuals ($200+) and Political Action Committees (PACs) to federal campaigns.
[xi] Analysis by Public Campaign of U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) data coded by industry by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org) for the 2006 election cycle. Includes contributions from individuals ($200+) and Political Action Committees (PACs) to federal campaigns.
[xiii] Analysis by Public Campaign of U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) data coded by industry by the Center for Responsive Politics (www.opensecrets.org) for the 2002, 2004, and 2006 election cycles. Includes contributions from individuals ($200+) and Political Action Committees (PACs) to federal campaigns
[xiv] Micah Sifry, "Clean Elections-Making a Difference," Yes Magazine, Fall 2003.
[xv] "Gov. Napolitano expands CoppeRx Card to all Arizonians" US States News, May 5, 2006
[xvi] Maine.gov :Maine Rx Plus Fact Sheet, 2004
[xvii] Treat, Sharon Angelin and Steven Sarno, "Cutting Drug Costs: Different Approaches, Different Results", 2005
[xviii] Public Campaign: Health Care Paybacks, August 2004