By Donald Shaw
The House Ways and Means Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing today on Medicare for All, but its chairman, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), suddenly changed the focus of the hearing and instructed his Democratic colleagues to not even mention the term. Instead of focusing on the proposal to establish a single-payer universal health care system, the hearing now covers all options for making health coverage universally accessible, including tweaks to the Affordable Care Act.
Since taking his powerful chairmanship at the start of the current legislative session, Neal, a longtime skeptic of Medicare for All, has raked in tens of thousands of dollars from health care industry interests. Neal received $61,800 from PACs and individuals affiliated with health care interests from Jan. 1, 2019 to March 31, 2019, Sludge’s review of the most recent Federal Election Commission records found.
Neal’s recent contributors include multiple companies represented in anti-Medicare for All lobbying group the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future.
In his last election, the pharmaceutical and health professionals industries were Neal’s second and third top industry donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, contributing $282,250 (8%) and $264,612 (7.4%) of his total raised.
According to The Intercept, Neal met privately with Democrats on his committee last Wednesday to discuss the pivot. Neal “told the Democrats on the panel that he didn’t want the phrase ‘Medicare for All’ to be used,” The Intercept reported. “Instead, he said, the hearing should focus on all the different ways to achieve ‘universal health care’ or ‘universal health coverage,’ which he said was a better term to deploy. Medicare for All, he argued, was wrong on policy and is a political loser.”
Censoring speech in the House
The Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the revenue side of any health care legislation, plays a crucial role in determining which bills advance to the floor for votes. Rep. Primala Jayapal (D-Wash.), along with 112 other House members, are sponsoring the Medicare for All Act of 2019, so Neal’s prohibition of the term “Medicare for All” presumably forbids his colleagues from directly referencing their own bill.
Neal’s recent industry contributors include members of trade associations participating in the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future (PAHCF), a “dark money” lobbying organization created to oppose Medicare for All.
Pharmaceutical companies Merck, AstraZeneca, and Genentech, all members of the lobbying group and PAHCF coalition member Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), made contributions to Neal in the first quarter of 2019 through their PACs. Abbott Laboratories and Horizon Pharmaceuticals, both members of PAHCF coalition member the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), also donated to Neal through their PACs. …
Tuesday / June 18