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Greenwald writes: "It's difficult to find someone who embodies the sleazy, anti-democratic, corporatist revolving door that greases Washington as shamelessly and purely as Liz Fowler."

Revolving Door. (illustration: Moyers & Company)
Revolving Door. (illustration: Moyers & Company)


Obamacare Architect Returns to Pharm Industry Job

By Glenn Greenwald, Guardian UK

18 December 12

 

Few people embody the corporatist revolving door greasing Washington as purely as Elizabeth Fowler

hen the legislation that became known as "Obamacare" was first drafted, the key legislator was the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, whose committee took the lead in drafting the legislation. As Baucus himself repeatedly boasted, the architect of that legislation was Elizabeth Folwer, his chief health policy counsel; indeed, as Marcy Wheeler discovered, it was Fowler who actually drafted it. As Politico put it at the time: "If you drew an organizational chart of major players in the Senate health care negotiations, Fowler would be the chief operating officer."

What was most amazing about all of that was that, before joining Baucus' office as the point person for the health care bill, Fowler was the Vice President for Public Policy and External Affairs (i.e. informal lobbying) at WellPoint, the nation's largest health insurance provider (before going to WellPoint, as well as after, Fowler had worked as Baucus' top health care aide). And when that health care bill was drafted, the person whom Fowler replaced as chief health counsel in Baucus' office, Michelle Easton, was lobbying for WellPoint as a principal at Tarplin, Downs, and Young.

Whatever one's views on Obamacare were and are: the bill's mandate that everyone purchase the products of the private health insurance industry, unaccompanied by any public alternative, was a huge gift to that industry; as Wheeler wrote at the time: "to the extent that Liz Fowler is the author of this document, we might as well consider WellPoint its author as well." Watch the five-minute Bill Moyers report from 2009, embedded below, on the key role played in all of this by Liz Fowler and the "revolving door" between the health insurance/lobbying industry and government officials at the time this bill was written and passed.

More amazingly still, when the Obama White House needed someone to oversee implementation of Obamacare after the bill passed, it chose . . . Liz Fowler. That the White House would put a former health insurance industry executive in charge of implementation of its new massive health care law was roundly condemned by good government groups as at least a violation of the "spirit" of governing ethics rules and even "gross", but those objections were, of course, brushed aside by the White House. She then became Special Assistant to the President for Healthcare and Economic Policy at the National Economic Council.

Now, as Politico's "Influence" column briefly noted on Tuesday, Fowler is once again passing through the deeply corrupting revolving door as she leaves the Obama administration to return to the loving and lucrative arms of the private health care industry:

"Elizabeth Fowler is leaving the White House for a senior-level position leading 'global health policy' at Johnson & Johnson's government affairs and policy group."

The pharmaceutical giant that just hired Fowler actively supported the passage of Obamacare through its membership in the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) lobby. Indeed, PhRMA was one of the most aggressive supporters - and most lavish beneficiaries - of the health care bill drafted by Fowler. Mother Jones' James Ridgeway proclaimed "Big Pharma" the "big winner" in the health care bill. And now, Fowler will receive ample rewards from that same industry as she peddles her influence in government and exploits her experience with its inner workings to work on that industry's behalf, all of which has been made perfectly legal by the same insular, Versailles-like Washington culture that so lavishly benefits from all of this.

It's difficult to find someone who embodies the sleazy, anti-democratic, corporatist revolving door that greases Washington as shamelessly and purely as Liz Fowler. One of the few competitors I can think of is Adm. Michael McConnell, who parlayed his military and intelligence career into a lucrative gig at Booz Allen, one of the nation's largest private intelligence contractors; then became George W Bush's Director of National Intelligence (where he spearheaded a huge gift to the telecom industry - retroactive immunity shielding it from all accountability for its participation in the illegal Bush NSA eavesdropping program - as well as continued his Booz Allen work of privatizing intelligence and surveillance functions); then returned to the loving arms of Booz Allen, where he now exploits his national security credentials on behalf of industry interests (by, for instance, spearheading the fear-mongering campaign about cyber-warfare in order to advocate for security programs that would amply enrich Booz Allen's clients).

This is precisely the behavior which, quite rationally, makes the citizenry so jaded about Washington. It's what ensures that the interests of the same permanent power factions are served regardless of election outcomes. It's what makes a complete mockery out of claims of democracy. And it's what demonstrates that corporatism and oligarchy are the dominant forms of government in the US:

 

 

See also: Moyers and Winship | Washington's Revolving Door Is Hazardous to Our Health

 

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+37 # Activista 2012-12-18 10:39
Business as usual - maximizing short term profit. Greedy doctors.
What is a difference between gangsters and doctors?
Gangster: Give me all the money or I will hurt you.
Doctor: Give me all the money and then I will stop the pain.
Almost 80% USA bankruptcies are due to medical bills.
We should rephrase the "Military - Industrial complex" to "Military - Insurance" complex.
 
 
+7 # charsjcca 2012-12-18 15:06
Business as usual. It had nothing to do with health care.
 
 
+7 # pushingforpeace 2012-12-18 16:37
Medical Industrial Complex
 
 
+4 # RLF 2012-12-19 05:25
Obamacare for poor doctor and hospital subsidy program.

I had a friend was just in the er for 2 hours...$6800. We need to get rid of employer based insurance so that people get pissed when they get their bill!
 
 
+10 # Firefox11 2012-12-18 17:22
The problem with Obamacare, as stated in the article, is the pharmaceutical industry's unwarranted influence when The Affordable Care Act was crafted, with no public option for citizens. It is not the doctors who are the problem. They are frequently not properly reimbursed for their cost when treating Medicaire recipients. Talk to people who actually work in the medical profession. My sister is a physician and my sister in law is a nurse. When President Obama was embarking on universal healthcare back in the summer of 2009 many medical people were marching in support of a single payer system. Unfortunately the President did not stay in the game and instead let others, Rahm Immanual, Liz Fowler, Max Baucus, cut deals with the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies who are the entities that are in business for short term profits; they are the ones who are greedy. They are the problem.
 
 
+12 # beeyl 2012-12-18 17:52
Quoting Firefox11:
Unfortunately the President did not stay in the game and instead let others, Rahm Immanual, Liz Fowler, Max Baucus, cut deals with the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies who are the entities that are in business for short term profits; they are the ones who are greedy. They are the problem.


I hope you're including Obama in the greedy, blameworthy "they" who are the problem, here. After all, he didn't just quit the game and let others run it; on the contrary, he personally promised the private health insurance companies that the public option would not be in the final legislation - weeks before he himself stopped endorsing the PO and months before signing the ACA into law.
 
 
0 # Activista 2012-12-18 18:22
"They are frequently not properly reimbursed for their cost when treating Medicare recipients"
In our small town there are at least 40 doctors - NOT one take Medicare Insurance (Plan B). Clinics advertise like crazy - Dentists take half of local paper advertisement - many expensive doctors that normal person can not afford. Why?
 
 
+37 # reiverpacific 2012-12-18 11:52
Small wonder that single-payer, still the ONLY acceptable progressive move forward, was "Not on the table".
I really feel desperately sorry for my US citizen bro's and sisters and their kids, who are trapped in this disgusting antediluvian revolving door, as I can go back to the UK and get free AND BETTER treatment -and have done twice if I need it.
Ah; -but they got me in the ER here once and it's been downhill to ruin ever since, which is why I'd never ever consider giving up my EU/UK citizenship and why I don't intend to grow old here (and for the "America -love it or leave it numbskulls and rednecks, a few who infest RSN occasionally, I'll go when it's my idea and when I've accomplished my goals here-hopefully with some giveback to my community).
Whatever befalls there, the social safety net is a Holy Grail, as the "austerity buffs" are finding out and as "Hatchet" Thatcher and Sarkozy found out to their eventual (but far too delayed) demise.
I also had a South Korean friend who just moved back home for the same reason.
 
 
+4 # Firefox11 2012-12-18 17:30
I am curious as to why you are living in the US. My spouse is British and came with me to live in the US at my request. We have not really had healthcare since we arrived partly due to the expense. In the UK, as you know, healthcare is not tied to the employer, a big mistake here, so is available to all, even those without employment.
 
 
+3 # Activista 2012-12-18 18:27
" healthcare is not tied to the employer"
my ex-sister in law - when her husband died - was working next 20 years at $10/hour in the dead end job so her 2 children have have health insurance.
Land of free slaves?
 
 
+2 # reiverpacific 2012-12-19 09:05
Quoting Firefox11:
I am curious as to why you are living in the US. My spouse is British and came with me to live in the US at my request. We have not really had healthcare since we arrived partly due to the expense. In the UK, as you know, healthcare is not tied to the employer, a big mistake here, so is available to all, even those without employment.

I intend to go back but I have a few things to accomplish first.
That's the main reason I've never become a citizen though as I've stated. It's a long story and I have a business here. If something (Gawd forbid) happened to my wife suddenly, I'd be gone in a shot, five cats and all
 
 
+1 # mdhome 2012-12-19 15:31
And no one could blame you, however here we need to commit a felony in order to get coverage if you were unlucky enough to lose your job with coverage.
 
 
+3 # Vern Radul 2012-12-18 12:48
No Mission Accomplished photo op first?
 
 
+12 # Michael_K 2012-12-18 12:51
I'm getting the vague impression that at least some of you are getting wise to the notion that Obamacare was a flim flam, and that Obama never did ANYTHING for the average American, much less one who voted for him.

It's a bit late, but I guess it's still progress, however minimal.
 
 
+11 # engelbach 2012-12-18 15:16
Many of us knew this from the git-go. But blind worship dictated that Obama could do no wrong.

Okay, I'm waiting for the hardline supporters to accuse me of being a GOP dupe, even though I'm a socialist and far, far to the left of them and Obama.

Labor Party 2016.
 
 
+10 # 4yourinformation 2012-12-18 17:32
I believe you friend. I voted for Stein. I organized antiwar protests in Idaho. I'm for single-payer all the way.
 
 
0 # Martintfre 2012-12-18 14:00
could some one please explain to me what Fascism is again .. Oops there it is
the whole article.
 
 
+5 # futhark 2012-12-18 15:07
Well, now we know why the public option that President Obama promised in his 2008 went off the table on the very first go 'round.

The way Obamacare seems to be set up, it provides a guaranteed market for medical insurance providers. I could tell you from very sad experience that a person who is in desperate need of medical attention is in no position to shop around for the most favorable "deal" in either medical insurance or medical care. It's now an open market, competitive system, folks, but a case of monopoly.
 
 
0 # Firefox11 2012-12-18 17:32
I wish that the Republicans who so dislike Obamacare would have initiated their own improvements to the healthcare system when Bush2 was President. What happened?
 
 
0 # mdhome 2012-12-19 15:34
They were afraid the little people might benefit in some small manner.
 
 
+2 # reiverpacific 2012-12-19 16:25
Quoting Firefox11:
I wish that the Republicans who so dislike Obamacare would have initiated their own improvements to the healthcare system when Bush2 was President. What happened?

9/11, Two wars, Katrina disaster, a bent SCOTUS, worst presidency in history and all that goes with it!
And remember "Boner" and some other Rethugs standing on both House and Senate floors stating with straight faces that "We have the best healthcare in the world" in the face of a huge volume of evidence to the contrary and a bunch of gallows humor around the world.
 
 
+3 # Activista 2012-12-18 18:30
case of monopoly - yes - AMA is in control.
 
 
+4 # cmp 2012-12-18 18:10
Since we are shafted with the Employer Based Health Care System, we must go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics to understand the circumstances for the oligopoly & the Affordable Health Care Act.

Our effective but unspoken, Immigration Policy within the US since the 1960's was Women doubling our workforce. This trend peaked back in 1998 & stopped inflating the overall number. (of course, if our politicians were the least bit serious about real job growth & real Immigration Policy, they would have to talk about this fact.)

Their are 154M workers in the American workforce, (on a "good" day). 78M of those, are Baby Boomers. In January 2011, they started turning 65. Therefore, they are eligible for Medicare. This equates to 10,000 baby boomers/every day turning 65 or lost consumers to the Health Care Oligopolists.

When we look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections, they estimate that for every "new" entrant into the workforce, 5 will turn 65 years of age.
Wall Street has known for years that this, "Consumer Cliff (haha) or that this Shrinking Inventory" was coming.

By the way, I believe that the Insurance Industry, comes in off the golf course at least once a week, (lol) to invest all of our premiums with Wall Street, completely Tax Free. Pretty sweet & quite interesting scenario that Billy~Bob made when he tore down the wall between Banks & Insurance Corps, Aye?

Merry Christmas to All!
Keep up the great Work!!!
 
 
+6 # tanis 2012-12-18 18:39
Even tho I have watched this sort of thing happening for a while it makes me so mad, mad enough to get completely healthy by eating good food and getting exercise. When I get a better idea, I will let you know. Meanwhile it is time for America's people to wake up and reclaim their power, this doesn't have to be.
 
 
+3 # SMoonz 2012-12-18 21:38
Praise Glen Greenwald once again with true journalism. Investigative work like this is what the public needs.

How many times did many of us point out the fact that Obamacare is a joke meant to help the health care industry. Oh well, some called us Republican's, agents for the right wing, etc.

The reality is this made public option impossible. It effectively ended our chances at truly affordable care. This wasn't a first step towards anything. It is the end of the line.
 
 
+3 # Vern Radul 2012-12-19 08:48
"Pssst, hey Rahm. They bought it. Again! LOL."
-- Obama to Emanuel the evening of November 6, 2012
 

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