Lobster Risotto and Lobbying: More On Doctors Paying For Their Own Food

Restaurants Just Say No to doc gift ban

Davio’s, the pricey Italian steakhouse known for its Kobe beef meatballs, lobster risotto and hand-rolled potato gnocchi, seems to have made a seamless transition from haute cuisine to hardball politics having successfully lobbied (with help from others, of course) the state House of Representatives to repeal a 2008 ban on drug companies giving gifts and fancy dinners to doctors.

The House overwhelmingly voted to repeal the ban as part of an “economic development” bill (they tried the same tactic last year but were ultimately thwarted by the state Senate). Insiders are cautiously optimistic that the Senate will once again block any repeal of the ban when they vote on a budget, but apparently the pharmaceutical industry has made some inroads, so at this point nothing is certain.

The chutzpah of Davio’s, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and the drug industry pushing the repeal is pretty impressive. But according to consumer advocates from Health Care For All, several of the restauranteurs assertions about the economic decimation that has come from the gift ban, may be, well baloney:

Here, courtesy HCFA’s Brian Rosman, is a bit of truth squadding:

1. Claim: “Restaurants provide an important setting for all types of meetings to take place and shouldn’t be excluded as a venue from hosting educational meetings and presentations.”

Truth: The statement is false, and restaurants are not excluded by law. The law allows “educational meetings” at restaurants, as long as the doctor pays his or her own way. If these sessions are for the benefit of the physicians, why can’t the doctor pay for the meal, and listen to the educational presentation from the drug company? Why do premium payers have to cover the meal?

2. Claim: “The mislabeled ‘gift ban’ has been devastating to restaurants and thousands of middle-class employees.”

Truth: The statement is false. State figures conclusively show that the restaurant industry has been booming. Last year was their best year ever, and so far this year is topping last. Devastating? There’s no evidence of that. In any case, every dollar spent on drug industry marketing on restaurant meals is a dollar added to the cost of health care in America. So why should our health care dollars prop up restaurant meals for well-to-do physicians?

As stated in Billy Rubin’s blog:

For those who have been trapped in solid ice since, say, the mid-1930s and the heyday of the Henry Cabot Lodges and William Morgan Butlers, in Massachusetts, the House belongs to the Democratic party. So how does such a law that seems to once again encourage the wink-wink nudge-nudge relationship between docs and the pill-pushers–particularly when the same legislative body clamps down on labor’s bargaining rights in an effort to rein in spending costs–get passed?

Amazingly, the answer appears to lie in…the dining & entertainment lobby.

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