Pharma facts 2012: Health care premiums will go up, way, way up

Editor’s Note: As the year draws to a close, over the next four days, Check Up will be sharing one new Pharma fact a day that was an important breakthrough in the world of pharmaceuticals in 2012. Today, Check Up delves into health care premiums.

This month the CEO at Aetna, one of the US's largest health insurers, stated that premiums for individuals and small businesses are likely to rise by as much as 100% within the next year as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

That should come as no surprise.  The very people who wrote the Affordable Care Act work in the revolving door that circulates people between lucrative jobs at major corporations and controlling positions in government where they craft laws and regulations to benefit their once-and-future employers. 

On the specific matter of the Affordable Care Act, no one exemplifies this revolving door of plutocracy more than Elizabeth Fowler.  This month it was revealed that she is leaving the White House for a senior position at Johnson & Johnson’s government affairs and policy group.

In 2009 Fowler was a top staff aide to Montana Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that drafted the legislation.  She went to that position from Wellpoint, the US's largest health insurer, where she was the VP for public policy.  Commenting on her Congressional position at the time, Bill Moyers wrote, "now she’s working for the very committee with the most power to give her old company and the entire industry exactly what they want: higher profits, and no competition from alternative non-profit coverage that could lower costs and premiums.”

As the insurance industry's emissary, Fowler did exactly that, crafting a bill that requires everyone to buy private health insurance without any public alternative to control premium prices.  Baucus's staff worked with industry lobbyists to even remove from consideration proposals favored by popular majorities.  Measures such as Medicare for all, a public option, and a requirement for drug companies to negotiate prices went off the table.  Throughout the entire process of creating the Affordable Care Act, the Senate and the White House steadfastly advanced the profit-making interests of insurers and pharma.

As a reward for her handiwork, Fowler now goes to Johnson & Johnson where, as Glenn Greenwald describes it, she can "peddle...her influence in government and exploit...her experience with its inner workings to work on that industry’s behalf."

-          Dan Hoffman