The story told us of a pharmaceutical giant called Amgen and three senators so close to it they might as well be entries on its balance sheet: Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Democratic Senator Max Baucus (MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and that powerful committee’s ranking Republican, Orrin Hatch (UT). A trio of perpetrators who treat the United States Treasury as if it were a cash-and-carry annex of corporate America.
The Times story described how Amgen got a huge hidden gift from unnamed members of Congress and their staffers. They slipped an eleventh hour loophole into the New Year’s Eve deal that kept the government from going over the fiscal cliff. When the sun rose in the morning, there it was, a richly embroidered loophole for Amgen that will cost taxpayers a cool half a billion dollars.
Amgen is the world’s largest biotechnology firm, a drug maker that sells a variety of medications. The little clause secretly sneaked into the fiscal cliff bill gives the company two more years of relief from Medicare cost controls for certain drugs used by patients who are on kidney dialysis, including a pill called Sensipar, manufactured by Amgen.
The provision didn’t mention Amgen by name, but according to reporters Lipton and Sack, the news that it had been tucked into the fiscal cliff deal “was so welcome, that the company’s chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts.” Tipping them off, it would seem, to a jackpot in the making.
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