Congressman Rangel Says Drug Firms Have Been 'Stealing'

By David Espo | July 2, 2009 | 6:03 AM EDT
Washington (AP) - One of the principal authors of health care legislation taking shape in the House accused drug companies and other medical providers Wednesday of stealing, and said they are now offering concessions in the hopes the bill that emerges will not demand too much of them.
"Everyone knows that people around the table are stealing, but they don't want to turn each other in if they're going to have to pay the full penalty," said Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Asked in an interview on MSNBC what he meant by stealing, the New York Democrat replied, "I mean stealing."
Asked if he were referring to drug companies, he said, "I'm talking about pharmaceuticals, in the sense that they're now coming forward saying that they want to be able to fill that vacuum that's there."
He added: "Everyone now saying, `I want to do the right thing. Just do the right thing by me. Just be fair by me.' We're talking about people now saying that they don't have to charge as much for everything as they had in the past as long as there's an even playing field."
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America recently reached an $80 billion deal with key lawmakers and the White House, agreeing to pay for expanded drug coverage under Medicare and to help defray the cost of President Barack Obama's plan to extend health insurance to millions who lack it.
In response to Rangel's comments, Ken Johnson, senior vice president of PhRMA, said: "We would love to have Mr. Rangel spend a few days in a laboratory talking to some of our scientists who are working to cure cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's. Perhaps then he would have a better appreciation of what we do. Yes, we agree saving money is important. But so is saving lives."
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has also held negotiations with hospitals and other industry groups in hopes of sealing agreements to pay for more of the bill.
Privately, some of these groups have indicated a willingness to accept cuts in their projected payments under Medicare as part of an overall bill that provides insurance to millions who now law it.
Under Obama's proposal, tens of millions of potential new customers would be created for insurance companies as well as for medical providers.
Rangel's committee is one of three at work on drafting health care legislation that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to bring to a vote in July.
Rangel himself faces corruption allegations and has been the subject of an investigation by the House ethics committee for the past ten months.
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