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article imageOp-Ed: The revolving door special interests and Obamacare

By Ken Hanly     Nov 14, 2014 in Politics
Washington - When Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act was originally drafted, Democrat Max Baucus was a key legislator involved and Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. His committee took the lead role in drafting the act.
Baucus claimed that Elizabeth Fowler then his chief policy counsel was the main architect of the act. She actually drafted the act. Baucus is now US ambassador to China.
Baucus himself has plenty of connections with health care lobbyists. Since 1998 Baucus has managed to attract more than $5.1 million in donations from insurance, pharmaceutical, and nursing industrie. A more detailed accounting can be found here. Congressional staff records show that 34 of his former staff are registered to lobby Congress with a third of them working on health care issues. During committee meetings on Obamacare, Baucus showed his hostility to even considering any form of universal health care system of the types that almost all other advanced capitalist states have. At a meeting of the Senate Finance Meeting in May 2009 advocacy groups attended to protest their exclusion from the process as well as statements by Baucus that "single payer was not an option on the table". Baucus had eight protesters removed from the hearing . They were arrested for disrupting the meeting. Government by the corporations for the corporations demands that the people not disturb the process. At the very next meeting, Baucus had five more doctors and nurses removed from the meeting and arrested. Not only is the single payer system not an option, with Fowler drafting the legislation there is not even to be a public option : The former Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint, Elizabeth Fowler, is currently the Senior Counsel to Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a leading opponent of the public option in health care reform.[27] The public option would see a government plan in competition with private plans.
Key staff and members of Congress rotate between the government and the corporate sector. Elizabeth Fowler, the architect of the Obamacare bill worked for WellPoint the largest health insurance provider in the US. She was Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs a post that involved informal lobbying for the firm. Before working for the firm she had also worked as Baucus' top aide on health care. After Obamacare was drafted, Fowler was replaced by another chief health counsel with corporate connections to the health care industry. Michelle Easton worked at Tarplin, Downs, and Young who among other activities lobbied for WellPoint.
Fowler did not leave government when she left the position with Baucus. Given her stellar corporate connections and drafting of a bill that satisfied key corporate interests, Obama put Fowler in charge of implementing Obamacare and she became Special Assistant to the President for Healthcare and Economic Policy at the National Economic Council. However, the revolving door keeps revolving as described in the appended video. Fowler has again passed through the door to take a senior position with Johnson and Johnson's "government affairs and policy group". When she left the government Fowler was deputy director of the Office of Consumer Information and Oversight at the US Department of Health and Human Services.
The Obama administration claims that Obama has done more to close the revolving door in the last ten years than any other president. This is probably true except that rather than closing the door it is still wide open but with policies that make it appear as if it has closed.. People who now pass through the door must lobby through intermediaries. White House spokesperson Nick Pappas says: “President Obama has done more in the past four years to close the revolving door of special interest influence than any President before him, namely by prohibiting executive branch appointees from accepting gifts from lobbyists, prohibiting former lobbyists from working on issues on which they lobbied, and by preventing appointees from lobbying the White House after working here. Our goal has been to reduce the influence of special interests in Washington – which we’ve done more than any Administration in history.”
In the case of Obamacare these restrictions did not prevent the bill being virtually written by special interests. Fowler will not be able to directly lobby for Johnson and Johnson but she can certainly advise their lobbyists as to how it is done. With the Republicans gaining more power in the government it is unlikely that even the public option let alone a single payer system will be an issue for the media or most in government.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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