Editorial: A Political Front Row Seat

This past week, I had the opportunity to listen from the ‘front row’ to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) address an event here in Colorado, supporting freshmen members of Congress and talking about various subjects. I made a note to myself on a couple points relating to healthcare, and a set of circumstances that, at very least, frustrate logic. As in many of her presentations, the Congresswomen was extremely passionate, and this time, presenting on the subject of health economics, was no different.

It’s no secret that reworking the healthcare system will be a major project. And at first, and even second glance, most of the economics look extremely daunting, especially with some of the ground rules surrounding the calculation of program cost. In her presentation last week, the Speaker herself indicated her frustration at an accounting system that awarded little to no value to ‘counting prevention’ in its economic analysis of pending legislation. In this matter, she and the dietary supplements industry may find themselves unlikely allies, both trying to figure out how to get a prevention ‘number’ and ‘role’ identified in these times of change. While Pelosi focused specifically on prevention from ‘diet’ the strength of her conviction that prevention represents a cost savings make it obvious for industry to continue its efforts at echoing her current sentiments in crafting messages regarding healthcare legislation.

I’m not sure on Ms. Pelosi’s stance personally regarding dietary supplements, but in the current environment, any possible alignment is better than none. And say what you will about the authenticity of the Lewin report numbers from a few years back, the evidence is solid that some supplements do represent a net cost savings – both to system infrastructure as well as to direct cost.

The lobbyists are active in Washington, attempting to get to the right ears at the right time. As the summer winds down, there are other, local ears that are also available. In this statement, I echo comments made by my colleague Marc Ullman in his NPIcenter blog, as he comments on the relative lack of engagement of the dietary supplement industry in the overall political process and specifically in financial support. From my own personal experience at a couple Natural Products Association lobby days and through direct interactions with several legislators, the opportunity to engage at local level has probably never been more important, especially with healthcare reform such a need – and a priority.

As I’ve said in this column before, and the advise is generic and not country specific, “if you fail to get engaged, you lose the right to criticize later, if the eventual environment is not to your liking”. Talk to industry leaders and associations and get their insights into how you can be most helpful in ensuring the industry future is as sound as it should be.

On a separate subject, and going back once again to the Speaker’s presentation here, I was interested and more than a little amused at the likening of the House to a hot pot of coffee and the Senate to the saucer in which issues ‘cooled’. Insight indeed…

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