Monday, February 15, 2010

Healthcare Reform: Where’d It Go?

I’ve been a little distracted lately (busy Holidays, snowstorms, colds) but I stopped the other day and U.S. healthcare reform was gone. Poof! Not there anymore. Now, Larry always kids me (you are kidding Larry, aren’t you?) that when distracted I can miss a lot. But, I must’ve had one heck of a lot better New Year’s Eve than I’d realized.

I went to my usual haunts to see if anyone had any perspective on this. Mike Huckman at CNBC ( ) and Pharmalot ( ) didn’t mention it. (My apologies if they did and I missed it.)

OK, don’t worry, I’m not going to drag this out. I had heard about Scott Brown’s ( ) election in Massachusetts. (Ted Kennedy’s old seat no less.) The irony of that victory has not been lost on me. I wasn’t as much surprised by Brown’s victory as how the national discussion on healthcare reform has practically shut down. Despite some noises from Nancy Pelosi and other supporters, there’s virtually nothing compared to prior to Congress’s late Christmas Eve recess.

What’s going on here? Further, what does it mean for Big Pharma? I’m going to go out on a limb here with my views.

First, the Democrats obviously couldn’t arrive at a consensus within their own party about what healthcare reform was all about. (I’m not going to go into the political missteps that cost them Ted Kennedy’s seat.) There were no killer ideas. What began as a high minded crusade to overhaul healthcare in America became a mad, undignified dash for the finish line replete with all sorts of cloakroom deals to make it all happen. No one had any reason to cross the aisle or to worry about why they hadn’t. I suspect that President Obama is probably relieved that he no longer has the Supermajority for this one. We just don’t have any good ideas to implement major healthcare reform. Consensus on smaller issues like tort reform or health insurance regulation may be possible but that’s going to be it for now. We may see this happen as the November midterm elections draw near.

Next, what about Big Pharma? I don’t think that the current status quo concerning healthcare reform is good for them. The topic isn’t going away. Both sides are going back into their corners to get ready for the next round. Uncertainty prevails. The Tea Party movement will play the role of spoiler this year possibly foretelling what will happen in the 2012 Presidential election. Decisions on future drug development not to mention how capital markets will value these companies are only several of the possible issues here.

I’ll be blogging on this theme for a while. With the Congressional elections coming and the White House trying to find common ground with the Republicans, there will be plenty of good material here.

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Contributed by Guy de Lastin

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