While proponents of the Affordable Care Act took a victory lap on the April 1 signup deadline, opposition to the state-run marketplaces continues to expand across the country through “Health Care Freedom Acts,” bills that would seek to limit state governments’ cooperation with the Affordable Care Act. But the untold story, until now, is that a key White House ally in passing the Affordable Care Act may have helped lay the groundwork for these very anti-ACA legislations being introduced across the country.
Billy Tauzin, the president of the pharmaceutical lobby, couldn’t help gloating while delivering a keynote speech at his final PhRMA annual meeting before his 2010 retirement. Reflecting on the industry’s decision to support comprehensive healthcare reform, the mega-lobbyist quipped, “This PhRMA team is a Super Bowl championship team of advocacy.”
That comparison might be more accurate if the NFL’s championship team had rigged the Super Bowl.
Publicly, PhRMA had banded together in negotiating its conditional support for the Affordable Care Act, and Tauzin, a former Louisiana congressman-turned-lobbyist, was the man responsible for protecting drug industry profits. In exchange for the industry’s public support of healthcare reform, his organization extracted a series of drug pricing concessions from the White House. But privately, Salon has learned, while the industry was outwardly supporting the Affordable Care Act, it was also quietly funding a nationwide effort to derail its implementation at the state level.
Tax records show that PhRMA initiated a series of payments to the American Legislative Exchange Council with a $379,192 contribution in 2008. Tauzin’s powerful lobby continued its payments to ALEC throughout its negotiations with the White House. Between 2008 and 2011, those contributions exceeded $1.25 million.
ALEC, a conservative group serving as a clearinghouse for state-level legislation, opposed the Affordable Care Act and launched its Health Care Freedom Initiative in 2008, the same year that PhRMA initiated its support. The project promised to “expose the truth about ObamaCare and fight back — one state at a time.” It also armed state lawmakers with “14 specific recommendations to push back against Obamacare” and offered boilerplate legislation with its “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.” While publicly disclosed filings show PhRMA’s support of ALEC beginning in 2008, the ALEC-PhRMA relationship may have begun earlier: In 2007, Tauzin received ALEC’s Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award.