CLINTON HEALTH TASK FORCE TO MEET WITH PMA, GPIA, NAPM AND NPA AS PART OF PLANNED "INFORMAL WORKING" SESSIONS WITH INTEREST GROUPS IN EARLY MARCH
Four pharmaceutical trade associations will go to the White House March 2 for an "informal working" session with the Task Force on National Health Care Reform. The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, Generic Pharmaceutical Industry Association, National Association of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and National Pharmaceutical Alliance have been invited to send two representatives each to the meeting. A separate meeting with just the generic industry is reportedly set for March 5. PMA's executive board is expected to have a second meeting with the task force March 8. Task force members are scheduled to meet with other interest groups during the first week of March, including the Health Insurance Association of America and related groups on March 1 and hospital associations on March 5. The task force met with 10 physician specialty groups, including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, on Feb. 24 and managed care groups such as the Group Health Association of America on Feb. 26. The task force is understood to be still in the "broadening" phase of its development of health care reform legislation as it continues to assess possible reform actions. The narrowing of policy options is expected to begin in late March. While giving industry representatives a chance to air their concerns, the meeting may not yield much knowledge about specifics of the Administration's developing health care reform proposals. The industry associations also will not make formal presentations but instead will answer questions and participate in an open forum on the health care reform effort. Indicative of the White House's closed-mouth approach, invited groups are being told only that they will be meeting with unnamed representatives of the task force. Similarly, at the Feb. 22 meeting of vaccine manufacturers with domestic policy advisor Carol Rasco, company representatives shared their views and corrected what they see as inaccurate information on vaccine prices publicized by the Administration but came away with little additional knowledge about the Administration's proposals for a comprehensive immunization initiative. The March 2 meeting apparently will involve only the traditional pharmaceutical industry. The Industrial Biotechnology Association and Association of Biotechnology Companies said they had not been invited to that session. In addition to staffers from the executive branch, about 400 individuals from outside the Administration are believed to be working on the task force. A working group on the integration of government health coverage programs is headed by Office of Management and Budget official Stephen Bandeian, MD/JD, according to a White House memorandum that lists 15 "working groups" of the task force. Bandeian was hired during the Bush Administration to work on physician payment reform at OMB. From 1985-89, Bandeian was a health staffer for the majority side of the House Ways & Means Committee. Bandeian's panel apparently will examine how Medicare and health programs for veterans, federal employees and the Department of Defense will fit with various health care reform options. Walter Zalman, an aide to California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, chairs the work group on new systems organizations, which is divided into four subgroups: budgets and caps; health insurance purchasing cooperative organization; organization, boards, federal and state oversight; and insurance reform. HHS Senior Health Policy Advisor Judith Feder, PhD, and Atul Gawande, co-chair the working group on new system coverage. This working group includes subgroups on benefits, employee mandates and coverage of the unemployed and the poor. Thomas Pyle, a member of the Jackson Hole Group, is heading a working group looking into new system infrastructure and support. Treasury Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Marina Weiss, formerly chief analyst for health and human resources at the Senate Finance Committee, chairs the working group on public financing. Other working groups identified in the memo address ethical foundations of a new system; short-term cost controls (chaired by Princeton sociologist Paul Starr, PhD); health policy initiatives for underserved populations and preventive health (headed by Surgeon General-designate Jocelyn Elders); long-term care; economic impacts; quantitative analytic support (chaired by HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Policy Kenneth Thorpe, PhD); legislative drafting (co-chaired by Gawande and Shirley Sagawa); mental health; and outside groups for legal and numbers audits.
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