July 28, 2020
This week promises to be consequential in the fight against the coronavirus. Both parties seem committed to passing some form of economic relief bill to help the American people who have been left reeling from the financial impact of the pandemic. Funding for contact tracing, testing, and measures to protect Americans’ health and get kids back in the classroom – as parents approach the schoolyear with a combination of anxiety, anger, and exhaustion – will also likely be provided for in the final bill.
With an election now less than 100 days away, if Congress wants to demonstrate genuine concern for the health and economic well-being of the country, it should seize the opportunity to pass additional legislation. On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order intended to reduce the price of pharmaceuticals. The drug industry and its legions of Washington lobbyists and spin masters were quick to point out the executive order wouldn’t be enforceable and would have a limited impact on their bottom line. As the market digested both sides of the argument throughout the day, pharmaceutical stocks actually rose in value.
If the president’s executive order was really nothing more than political posturing, Democrats on Capitol Hill, joined by Republicans, should call his bluff. Trump purported to deliver a number of substantive changes to how we buy prescription drugs, including allowing Americans to import drugs from Canada and other nations where they are cheaper and ensuring that Medicare doesn’t pay more for prescription drugs than it should. The executive order also addressed rebates that drug companies pay to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers – kickbacks, really – that come at the expense of our most vulnerable Americans, those fighting debilitating and sometimes life-threatening illnesses. New legislation could make sure that Trump’s stated intent becomes law. Unless Democrats made the issue into a partisan stunt of their own by gratuitously bashing the White House effort, the president would have no choice but to sign it.
Like the coronavirus relief bill, the stakes here are high. In 2018, nearly one-third of adults reported they didn’t take their medicines as prescribed because they couldn’t afford them. Fully 42% of cancer patients report having their entire net worth wiped out within two years of a diagnosis. According to the House Ways and Means Committee, Medicare could save $50 billion annually if it simply paid the average price that other developed nations do. In this time of coronavirus relief bills measured in the trillions, that seems like a trivial amount. To put it into context, however, that’s roughly the cost of individual subsidies through the ACA.
A concerted effort to root out the price gouging and inefficiencies in healthcare – starting with prescription drug prices – would do more to jump-start the American economy than any other action Congress could take right now. It would deliver a ...Continue Reading Here.