Wisconsin's Republican Senate candidate Tommy Thompson has been in hot water since video surfacedof him admitting that he wants to "do away with Medicare" and Medicaid. This shocking clip has gone viral, but what is less known about Thompson is how he helped Big Pharma rip off Medicare and how he later tried to help insurers get a piece of Medicaid, too.
In 2003, the Bush administration aggressively pushed for the creation of Medicare Part D, a subsidized drug benefit. Thompson was the "point man" for the administration during these negotations, serving as Bush's Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary.
While helping seniors afford prescription drugs was a laudable goal, the Bush administration, via Thompson, pushed for a special carve-out for the pharmaceutical industry. The part D bill specifically barred Medicare from negotiating drug prices with Big Pharma, meaning that it essentially told the government it can't even ask for a good deal.
This made the new law wildly more expensive than it should be, and most Democrats in the House voted against it. After the benefit was passed, Big Pharma rewarded its most fervent congressional supporter, Louisiana congressman Billy Tauzin, with a $2 million-a-year lobbying job.
But while Tauzin was getting a payoff, taxpayers were losing out. Authoritative studies on the issue estimate that drug negotiation could save as much as $20 billion a year for Medicare.
Thompson, having negotiated this great deal for the industry, soon left his role in the Bush administration. He became a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, a leading lobbying firm, where the firm's clients included leading bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies. He even went on television to shill for one company that was selling identification chips to implant in humans.
He began pushing for "reforms" in Medicaid that would directly benefit a health care maintenance corporation that had recently installed him on its board.
And now, when he vying for a return to the Senate, his fourth-largest donors are the pharmaceutical companies (they don't even rank in the top 20 for his opponent Tammy Baldwin). Health insurers are sixth.
All of this paints a clear picture of Thompson. He tells private audiences that he wants to do away with Medicare and Medicaid. But while those programs still exist, he's happy to let corporations bilk them for as much money as they can, ripping off taxpayers and patients.