Earlier this month, Community Catalyst joined other national organizations calling on the Obama administration to change the direction of economic treaty negotiations that could impact cost containment by federal and state health programs. A letter by AFSCME, AARP, the Alliance for Retired Americans, Consumers Union, Community Catalyst, and several other national U.S. health, consumer and legal advocacy organizations warned that current negotiations between the U.S. and 11 pacific rim nations could end up imposing restrictions on efforts by Medicaid and other federal health programs to control future health care costs on prescription drugs.  For instance, the provisions could allow drug makers to bring legal challenges to state Medicaid program efforts to control costs through negotiated rebates or exclusions of wasteful drugs from their formulary, among other things. Both the Affordable Care Act’s price discounts for seniors in the donut hole and the “340B” program, which provides discounts on drugs provided through hospitals and health centers that work with underserved populations, could also be at risk.

In light of the potential impacts, these groups also called for increased transparency in negotiations because the current treaty “proposals are developed in close and formal consultation with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries,” but the current “process excludes health care advocates and the broader public.”

The Obama Administration faced even more criticism a week later, when documents appeared on Wiki-Leaks suggesting, as one consumer advocate and long-time critic of these trade negotiations put it, the US negotiators are “standing in the shoes of big pharma” to push for increased protections for industry. Some critics responded that the current administration has “backtracked on even the modest health considerations adopted under the Bush administration.”

For more information, here are comments by Citizen Action, HCAN, and Médecins Sans Frontières, Knowledge Ecology International.

Leaders in Congress have also publicly raised the concern that these negotiations are proceeding without “broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.” More than 150 House Democrats, led by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and George Miller (D-CA), signed a letterto President Obama expressing “serious concern” about the fast-tracking of the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty negotiations, and the lack of congressional input.