The fight over Medicare For All begins in earnest

Now that legislation to implement Medicare For All has been unveiled by Washington state member of congress Pramila Jayapal, the opponents in the hospital, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries are gearing up to fight to prevent their source of incredible wealth from drying up. As Kaiser Health News reported, many groups that on the surface seem to be grassroots opponents of MFA are actually fronts for Big Pharma.

Dozens of patient advocacy groups, like the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, recently appeared in national advertisements objecting to a Trump administration proposal that could limit drugs covered by Medicare providers.

But a Kaiser Health News analysis found that about half of the groups representing patients have received funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

Drugmakers funneled more than $58 million to the groups in 2015 alone, according to financial disclosures in KHN’s “Pre$cription for Power” database, which tracks the little-publicized ties between patient advocacy groups and drugmakers. As patient organizations gain ground lobbying Congress and the administration, experts have begun to question whether their financial ties could push them to put drugmakers’ interests ahead of the patients they represent.

Although there are occasions when what’s best for patients is the same as what’s best for drugmakers, people should consider patient advocacy group statements with a “skeptical eye” if groups have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, said Matthew McCoy, a medical ethics and health policy assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Drugmakers and patient advocacy organizations have fundamentally different missions, he said. One wants to make money for shareholders. The other wants to serve patients. Since their goals will inevitably diverge, it’s important that patient groups aren’t swayed by their funders, he said.

The industry groups opposing MFA have powerful friends in congress, especially the wealthy, long standing members. We should never forget that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, although always ready to pose with progressive members of her caucus to show the diversity of the party, is a member in good standing of the oligarchy and has to be pushed hard to take progressive measures that negatively impact them.

Adam Gaffney, a physician and president of that excellent organization Physicians for a National Health Program, went into the lion’s den and took on five Fox News pundits to argue for single payer. He addressed head-on all the right-wing arguments that people make to keep the rotten system that we currently have. He provided an excellent review of why MFA would be good. I wonder what Fox viewers thought of that segment.

As momentum keeps growing to create a universal health care system, we should be prepared for the usual bloviating by media talk shows and pundits fretting about the deficit and how to pay for MFA, an issue that is only raised when the question of policies that actually benefit people come up, although there will be a net savings for the country under MFA.. It is barely discussed when handing out tax cuts for the wealthy or starting expensive wars.

Tom Tomorrow wanrs us the kind of discussions we can expect in the media.


  1. says

    pundits fretting about the deficit and how to pay for MFA

    Stop building nuclear weapons. Done.

    Nobody can be a serious “deficit conservative” and not look at military expenditures.

  2. ridana says

    Oh, gods, Kaiser. I signed up with them the first year at my job because they had no copay. I lasted one visit. I’d rather die than ever go back to Kaiser for anything. You get more personalized service from an ATM.

  3. Mano Singham says

    The original Henry J. Kaiser was, as hyphenman @#2 points out, the person who with Richard Nixon torpedoed any possibility of a government-run health care system and convinced him to impose on us the current monstrosity that enables health insurance companies like his to make big profits.

    But by 1985, the Kaiser Family Foundation spun off from Kaiser Permanente and the other Kaiser industries and is no longer affiliated with them. Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent organ created by the KFF.

    I have found KHN to be a pretty good source of news about health care I do not think it should be judged on how it came into being.

  4. machintelligence says

    Kaiser Permanente in Colorado is quite a decent organization. I have been with them for 12 years, first as employer sponsored provider and then as a medicare provider. I don’t like their pharmacy, as it is a real time waster, but all of my prescriptions are cheap at other pharmacies so I avoid Kaiser. Otherwise I have been more than pleased.

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