Conservative Groups and Big Pharma Join Forces to Fight Medicare for All

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The conservative movement continues to lose its mind over the prospect of single-payer healthcare, despite most of the Democratic presidential candidates signaling with a big white flag that they are never going to even try to pass it.

Politico Pulse reported this morning that a new coalition of conservative groups has formed, led by the American Conservative Union, to fight single-payer. A troubling thought, to be sure, but its website is frankly hilarious. Look at this garbage:


“Socialism (the Bernie Sanders thing)... Is Good” — Lenin. You heard it here first, folks.

The Coalition Against Socialized Medicine’s “about” page says the coalition was formed to “address the increasing public policy threats to America’s market-oriented healthcare system and government sponsored programs such as Medicare.” Blood is slowly pouring out of my ears as I think about the lack of shame necessary to argue that single-payer is a threat to Medicare, but also to markets, as if it weren’t true that the whole thing that makes Medicare work is that it is not market-oriented.


The site is unsurprisingly just full of lies, too boring and familiar to go into much detail about. One example: It describes Medicare for All as “Full Nationalization” of the American healthcare system, which it isn’t at all—hospitals wouldn’t be owned by the government under single-payer. The UK National Health Service is a nationalized healthcare system; single-payer is not. (Not to say that an American national health service wouldn’t be great.) That page also includes this baffling paragraph, which I believe refers to public option plans:

The second, less visible path is through incremental adoption of individual of public policies that could serve as the needed componentry to achieve a socialized medical system when pieced together down the road. Unfortunately, often these individual policies are considered in the absence of the precedents that they set for future expansion and exploitation, as well as how future policymakers may integrate them into a more centralized command and control structure.


Ah! I hate when the needed componentry to establish socialized medicine is considered in the absence of the precedents it would set or how it could be integrated into a more centralized command and control structure. That sucks.

What gives the game away is that the American Conservative Union is also active in the fight against an extremely limited Trump administration proposal to set prices for Medicare Part B drugs (which is only those administered at the doctors’ office) according to what’s paid in other developed countries. The ACU describes this as “foreign price controls,” as if the plan is to have a board of snooty French waiters determining the price of Humira. (This would be vastly preferable.)


FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth might be familiar names to you, but there’s also Heritage Action for America, the “social welfare” arm of the Heritage Foundation; the National Taxpayers Union, a boring conservative group; Citizens Against Government Waste, another boring conservative group; American Commitment, a dodgy dark money conservative group with Koch brothers ties; and the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, co-founded by failed Fed nominee Stephen Moore.

Why are they doing this? Ideology, of course, is one consideration; these groups exist to fight any sort of government spending on anything except tax cuts and big murder planes. But it also might have something to do with the sources of their funding.


The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA, is incredibly well-funded thanks to membership fees from drug companies; in 2017, it had an insane $456 million in revenue. They use some of this money to fund conservative non-profits in DC that do this kind of activity. (They also use some of that money to sponsor Politico Pulse, the outlet that first reported on the new coalition.)

Citizens Against Government Waste, for example, got a cool $50,000 from PhRMA in 2017, up from $15,000 from PhrMA in 2014. Nice raise! No need for PhRMA to donate to FreedomWorks, since that’s so well-funded by your classic rich Republican donors, but the National Taxpayers Union Foundation received $40,000, and American Commitment got $75,000. And the American Conservative Union is the best-fed little piggy of them all: They got $150,000 from PhrMA.


So to summarize, the money you pay for drugs eventually makes its way to conservative nonprofits that spend it on making sure you have to keep paying money for drugs. Cool system, eh?

The American Conservative Union and all these nasty allies would oppose single-payer whether or not PhRMA gave them money. Would they have gone to the trouble of forming this little coalition without it, though? Hard to say. PhRMA’s already involved in the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, the industry-backed group that was formed to fight single-payer, run by former Obama HHS appointee and Clinton 2016 staffer Lauren Crawford Shaver.


But when you’ve got $456 million kicking around, you might as well throw a few hundred thousand to some groups so that they’ll set up a website saying wanting everyone to have healthcare makes you a socialist and therefore Lenin, and even wanting a public option—that’s also Lenin shit, baby. Can’t hurt. Can it?