Miller touts benefits of health care reform

August 3, 2009 8:08:29 PM PDT
The president says a key component to economic recovery is reforming health care. Starting this week, Democratic members of the House of Representatives are back in their districts trying to convince the country; chief among them is East Bay Congressman George Miller.

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Miller heads the Education and Labor Committee -- one of three that worked on health care reform in the House. He is just back from Washington for the August recess and Monday called reporters to his office in Concord to talk up the legislation.

Miller talked a lot about health insurance.

"People understand this issue and what really want they want they want they want something done they want a reform of this health insurance system and that's very clear," Miller said.

Less clear is what has already been taken off the negotiating table.

Monday, in a blue collar Oakland neighborhood, a large bus parked in front of the Native American Health Center advertised free assistance in lowering the cost of prescription drugs.

"I'm buying generic right now through a drug assistance plan at a drug store but it's anywhere from $40 to $80 to $100 a month," Sandra Ott said.

The bus is sponsored by drug companies that are part of PHARMA ? the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

In the 1990s, PHARMA helped defeat the Clinton health care proposals with their Harry and Louise advertising campaign.

This time around, Harry and Louise are back, but their message now is that health care reform is good.

The reason for the turnaround is big drug manufactures negotiated with the White House to drop any proposals to import cheaper drugs from Canada.

Canada has a single payer plan, where the government is able to negotiate lower prices from the same drug makers that belong to PHARMA.

There was not anyone on the PHARMA-sponsored bus authorized to talk about that.

A spokesman for PHARMA in Washington said, "The World Health Organization estimates that up to 10 percent of medicines available globally are counterfeits and because of that we don't believe patients should be playing Russian roulette with their health."

When asked what she thought of the deal to take Canadian drugs out of the negotiations over health care reform, the head of the Native American clinic said she had "no comment."

Asked what he thinks about states being able to negotiate with drug companies like the provinces in Canada under a single payer plan, miller said he supports it.

"But I do not believe that the votes simply exist in the congress of the United States to pass that," Miller said.

And so a proposal that would allow California to negotiate with the big drug companies on behalf of its citizens will die as the administration pushes for what it hopes it can get in health care reform.

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