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ATR Leads Coalition Opposed to Pelosi’s 95% Drug Tax

By Alex HendrieATR.org

ATR today released a coalition letter signed by 70 groups and activists in opposition to the Pelosi drug pricing proposal to create a 95 percent tax on pharmaceutical manufacturers.

As noted in the letter, this bill calls for a retroactive tax on sales that is imposed in addition to existing against income taxes:

Under Speaker Pelosi’s plan, pharmaceutical manufacturers would face a retroactive tax of up to 95 percent on the total sales of a drug (not net profits). This means that a manufacturer selling a medicine for $100 will owe $95 in tax for every product sold with no allowance for the costs incurred.

The tax is used to enforce price controls on medicines that will crush innovation and distort the existing supply chain as the signers note:

“The alternative to paying this tax is for the companies to submit to strict government price controls on the medicines they produce. While the Pelosi bill claims this is “negotiation,” the plan is more akin to theft.”

This proposal will create significant harm to American innovation to the detriment of jobs, wages, and patients, as the letter notes:

”[The Pelosi] proposal would crush the pharmaceutical industry, deter innovation, and dramatically reduce the ability of patients to access life-saving medicines.

The full letter is found here and is below:

Dear Members of Congress:

We write in opposition to the prescription drug pricing bill offered by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would impose an excise tax of up to a 95 percent on hundreds of prescription medicines. 

In addition to this new tax, the bill imposes new government price controls that would decimate innovation and distort supply, leading to the same lack of access to the newest and best drugs for patients in other countries that impose these price controls.

Under Speaker Pelosi’s plan, pharmaceutical manufacturers would face a retroactive tax of up to 95 percent on the total sales of a drug (not net profits). This means that a manufacturer selling a medicine for $100 will owe $95 in tax for every product sold with no allowance for the costs incurred. No deductions would be allowed, and it would be imposed on manufacturers in addition to federal and state income taxes they must pay.

The alternative to paying this tax is for the companies to submit to strict government price controls on the medicines they produce. While the Pelosi bill claims this is “negotiation,” the plan is more akin to theft.

If this tax hike plan were signed into law, it would cripple the ability of manufacturers to operate and develop new medicines.

It is clear that the Pelosi plan does not represent a good faith attempt to lower drug prices. Rather, it is a proposal that would crush the pharmaceutical industry, deter innovation, and dramatically reduce the ability of patients to access life-saving medicines.

We urge you to oppose the Pelosi plan that would impose price controls and a 95 percent medicine tax on the companies that develop and produce these medicines.

Sincerely, 

Grover Norquist
President, Americans For Tax Reform

James L. Martin
Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
President, 60 Plus Association            

Marty Connors
Chair, Alabama Center Right Coalition                       

Bob Carlstrom
President, AMAC Action 

Dick Patten
President, American Business Defense Council

Phil Kerpen
President, American Commitment 

Daniel Schneider
Executive Director, American Conservative Union

Steve Pociask
President/CEO, The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research

Lisa B. Nelson
CEO, American Legislative Exchange Council 

Michael Bowman
Vice President of Policy, ALEC Action

Dee Stewart
President, Americans for a Balanced Budget

Tom Giovanetti​​​​​​​
President, Americans for a Strong Economy

Norm Singleton
President, Campaign for Liberty

Ryan Ellis
President, Center for a Free Economy

Andrew F. Quinlan​​​​​​​
President, Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Jeffrey Mazzella ​​​​​​​
President, Center for Individual Freedom

Ginevra Joyce-Myers
Executive Director, Center for Innovation and Free Enterprise

Peter J. Pitts
President, Center for Medicine in the Public Interest 

Olivia Grady
Senior Fellow, Center for Worker Freedom

Chuck Muth ​​​​​​​
President, Citizen Outreach

David McIntosh
President, Club for Growth

Curt Levey​​​​​​​
President, The Committee for Justice

Iain Murray
Vice President, Competitive Enterprise Institute

James Edwards
Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights

Matthew Kandrach​​​​​​​
President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Fred Cyrus Roeder​​​​​​​
Managing Director, Consumer Choice Center

Tom Schatz ​​​​​​​
President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Katie McAuliffe​​​​​​​
Executive Director, Digital Liberty

Richard Watson
Co-Chair, Florida Center Right Coalition

Adam Brandon
President, Freedomworks​​​​​​​

George Landrith ​​​​​​​
President, Frontiers of Freedom 

Grace-Marie Turner
President, Galen Institute

Naomi Lopez
Director of Healthcare Policy, Goldwater Institute

The Honorable Frank Lasee ​​​​​​​
President, The Heartland Institute

Jessica Anderson
Vice President, Heritage Action for America 

Rodolfo E. Milani ​​​​​​​
Trustee, Hispanic American Center for Economic Research
Founder, Miami Freedom Forum 

Mario H. Lopez
President, Hispanic Leadership Fund

Carrie Lukas
President, Independent Women’s Forum

Heather R. Higgins
CEO, Independent Women’s Voice

Merrill Matthews
Resident Scholar, Institute for Policy Innovation

Chris Ingstad​​​​​​​
President, Iowans for Tax Relief

Sal Nuzzo​​​​​​​
Vice President of Policy, The James Madison Institute

The Honorable Paul R LePage ​​​​​​​
Governor of Maine 2011-2019

Seton Motley
President, Less Government

Doug McCullough
Director, Lone Star Policy Institute

Mary Adams
Chair, Maine Center Right Coalition

Matthew Gagnon​​​​​​​
CEO, The Maine Heritage Policy Center

Victoria Bucklin ​​​​​​​
President, Maine State Chapter – Parents Involved in Education

Charles Sauer ​​​​​​​
President, Market Institute

Jameson Taylor, Ph.D.
Vice President for Policy, Mississippi Center for Public Policy

The Honorable Tim Jones
Leader, Missouri Center-Right Coalition 

Brent Mead
CEO, Montana Policy Institute

Pete Sepp ​​​​​​​
President, National Taxpayers Union

The Honorable Bill O’Brien
The Honorable Stephen Stepanek​​​​​​​
Co-chairs, New Hampshire Center Right Coalition

The Honorable Beth A. O’Connor
Maine House of Representatives

The Honorable Niraj J. Antani​​​​​​​
Ohio State Representative

Douglas Kellogg
Executive Director, Ohioans for Tax Reform

Honorable Jeff Kropf ​​​​​​​
Executive Director, Oregon Capitol Watch Foundation

Daniel Erspamer ​​​​​​​
CEO, Pelican Institute for Public Policy

Lorenzo Montanari​​​​​​​
Executive Director, Property Rights Alliance

Paul Gessing ​​​​​​​
President, Rio Grande Foundation

James L. Setterlund​​​​​​​
Executive Director, Shareholder Advocacy Forum

Karen Kerrigan
President and CEO, Small Business Entrepreneurship Council

David Miller & Brian Shrive
Chairs, Southwest Ohio Center-right Coalition

Tim Andrews
Executive Director, Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Judson Phillips
President, Tea Party Nation

David Balat ​​​​​​​
Director, Right on Healthcare – Texas Public Policy Foundation

Sara Croom ​​​​​​​
President, Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity

Kevin Fuller
Executive Director, Wyoming Liberty Group


Let Seniors Use Health Security Accounts to Buy Better Care

By Peter RoffRealClear Health

Atop the list of what America’s senior adults want are the preservation of their independence and a secure retirement. Admirably they don’t want to end up being a burden anyone, not their spouse, not their children, and not the rest of us. The way the system is rigged, however, almost guarantees they will

Medicare-for-All, which most of the Democrats running for president have endorsed, will only lead to increased dependency. It’s a typical one-size-fits-all proposal that sounds good from the stump and may look good on paper. The numbers though, just don’t work.

The way forward is to expand choice and to allow seniors to take advantage of competition in the health care marketplace to bring prices down. Some already have supplemental insurance that helps fill the financial gap between what they need and what Medicare will pay for but it’s not enough. Some people need more than one walker in order to stay in their homes.

This is where creativity is needed. The green-eye shade types who approve Medicare expenditures spend lots of time thinking about what things cost. Considering how many taxpayer dollars are involved in later-in-life health care, that’s not such a bad thing but it doesn’t always take into consideration what people need.

That forces seniors to make hard choices that can threaten their independence. They need to have more options as they would under a proposal by Dr. Ami Bera, D-Calif., and Jason Smith, R-Mo., that would let them use pre-tax dollars stored up in health savings accounts to fill the gaps between items covered under Medicare and what they are expected to pay for out of pocket.

“Having a Health Savings Account is a powerful resource that reimburses everything from doctor and dentist visits to prescription drugs, first aid supplies, and eyeglasses. Health Savings Accounts also incentivize saving for health-care expenses by providing critical tax benefits, just as we do for saving for retirement or college,” says Kevin McKechnie, the executive director of the American Bankers Association’s Health Savings Accounts Council.

Money put away in an HSA can stay there for decades. Under current law, there’s no “Use it or lose it” provision. That means younger workers can start saving for retirement health care upon entering the workforce and, through the magic of compound interest, build up a nest egg that’s there for them anytime they need it.

That means, if they’re lucky enough to remain relatively healthy and can be disciplined financially, it can be there for them in their retirement years which, it has suddenly become clear to me, come around a lot faster than it seems they will when you’re just starting out.

The tax benefits associated with HSA’s, McKechnie wrote in a recent op-ed, “have become even more important as deductibles and other health-care costs continue to skyrocket.” Struggling families, especially those that include senior adults facing the challenges associated with aging, are finding it harder and harder to plan for they can’t see coming. Expanding the range of services that can be paid for out of health savings accounts give them an additional hedge against the unexpected.

A recent Luntz Global poll found 46 percent support for the Bera-Smith plan and the idea of using HSA funds to fill the Medigap. Expanding the list of approved items upon which HSA dollars can be spent without tax penalties is low hanging fruit as far as health care reform goes. That’s probably why the idea has bipartisan support.

The challenges presented by an aging America in which people living longer and healthier must deal with diseases that can lead more quickly to economic ruin should give us all pause. New thinking is needed, not just where treatments are concerned but in how we make it possible for people to pay for it. We could as a country decide to turn the whole business over to the government but that inevitable means care will be rationed, fewer options will be available, and decisions regarding life and death matters will almost inevitably be taken out of our hands by the bureaucracy.

No one wants to live like that, and no one wants a loved one to die like that. The Bera-Smith Health Savings for Seniors Act will cover the gaps and help bring the cost of health care under control. At least 82 percent of those who answered the Luntz Global survey think it will. It’s time to give it a chance.


Competition, Not a Cartel, Can Cure What Ails Health Care

The best way to ensure better medical care for all is to reject Medicare for All.

By HUNT LAWRENCE AND DANIEL J. FLYNNThe American Spectator

Health care ranked as most important issue, save for “the ability to beat Donald Trump,” for Democratic voters in a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll taken before and after last week’s presidential debate.

The debate revealed fissures among the party’s presidential aspirants on health care.

Bernie Sanders pronounced his desire that “every American has health care as a human right and not a privilege.” But under the senator’s “Medicare for All” scheme, private health insurance becomes illegal.

Would any American regard it as in keeping with the First Amendment if the government limited all 330 million of us to one church or one newspaper? The senator’s conception of rights, several opponents seemed to say, is wrong.

“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” Amy Klobuchar quipped. She objected to Medicare for All forcing about half of Americans off their existing private insurance. “I don’t think that’s a bold idea,” the Minnesotan noted. “I think that’s a bad idea.”

Mayor Pete Buttigieg said he supported “Medicare for all who want it.” He objected to the one-size-fits-all quality of Sanders’ plan. “I trust the American people to make the right choice for them,” he told Sanders. “Why don’t you?”

Joe Biden balked at the price, estimated to eclipse what the federal government currently takes in in revenues. The former vice president pointed out, “Nobody’s yet said how much it’s going to cost the taxpayer.”

Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who supports his plan, pushed back. Vermont’s junior senator railed against “the drug companies and the insurance companies.” Warren explained, “I’ve never met a person who likes their insurance company.”

Given that insurance companies issue bills to consumers, this necessarily makes them unpopular. But the majority of costs come from hospitals (33 percent) and physician and clinical services (20 percent), according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). We want to kill the messenger. Those primarily responsible for the message — $25 for two aspirin pills, $120 for a cloth sling, $57,000 for a knee replacement — somehow not only escape our wrath but also win our admiration.

Hospitals gouging patients occurs most glaringly in places where hospitals operate as a monopoly and in emergency situations. The common denominator in both circumstances involves the inability to compare and shop.

In a paper published earlier this year in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, academics at Yale, Penn, MIT, and Carnegie Mellon note hospital price increases for the privately insured when competition decreases. “Prices at monopoly hospitals are 12% higher than those in markets with four or more rivals,” their abstract reads.

Monopoly hospitals also have contracts that load more risk on insurers (e.g., they have more cases with prices set as a share of their charges). In concentrated insurer markets the opposite occurs — hospitals have lower prices and bear more financial risk. Examining the 366 mergers and acquisitions that occurred between 2007 and 2011, we find that prices increased by over 6% when the merging hospitals were geographically close (e.g., 5 miles or less apart), but not when the hospitals were geographically distant (e.g., over 25 miles apart).

In the emergency room, when circumstances necessarily kill the ability to shop, spending per patient more than doubled from 2008 to 2017, according to research compiled by Kevin Kennedy and John Hargraves for the Health Care Cost Institute.

Reducing health-care costs requires more competition, not a monopoly. Change soon comes, and not necessarily legislative change of the Medicare for All variety. Data stored in the cloud and available via an app may make medical costs and outcomes transparent, which should reduce cost. Medicare for All will retard this process since the whole health-care industry will lobby against the smartphone apps, and the consolidation of the entire industry necessarily leads to less competition.

Beyond transparency enabling health-care consumers to shop, the industry appears ripe for new players. Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, and Berkshire Hathaway, for example, entered the field last year. If they do not ultimately seek to dethrone the status quo, why did UnitedHealth’s Optum sue to stop a former employee from working at the trio’s health-care startup? A $3.6 trillion industry remains too big a cash cow for the giants of tech and finance to resist a milking.

Competition is coming. Price transparency is coming. If Medicare for All is coming, then neither is coming.


In Our Health System, ObamaCare is the Dangerous Pre-Existing Condition

By Nan Hayworth • The Hill

As a physician whose career in medicine was dedicated to preserving and improving my patients’ health, I know firsthand how important it is for everyone to have access to care. This is a fundamental precept, morally and pragmatically sound, that should be honored by all who seek to transform for the better America’s flawed system of health care delivery.

Regrettably, since its passage in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had the net general effect of raising the cost of health insurance while reducing the quality and variety of the services that insurance covers. This is the opposite of what was intended — but the suffering engendered thereby is real and painful.

The best-case remedy would be to repeal the ACA completely and replace it with a much simpler, more targeted set of common-sense interventions to empower consumers and ensure their access to Continue reading


The Nasty Surprises That Plague Our Health-Care System

By Charles Silver & David A. Hyman • National Review

If you’ve ever been in a collision, you’ve probably dealt with a body shop. In all likelihood, the process went smoothly. You paid your deductible, your insurer paid the rest, and that was the end of the financial side of the repair.

Health care works differently. After eight-year-old Ben Millheim injured himself during a camping trip, his family was stuck with a $32,000 bill from the sky-ambulance company that flew him 88 miles to a hospital in St. Louis. That was the balance that remained after the Millheims’ insurer paid $12,000 for the service. Elizabeth Moreno was stuck with a bill for $17,850 because a physician asked her to provide a urine sample. She didn’t know that the doctor’s testing lab was out of her insurance network. Moreno’s insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, which would have paid an in-network lab $101 for the service, refused to cover the bill at all. Fearing for his daughter’s credit rating, Moreno’s father bargained the bill down to $5,000 and paid.

The Millheims and Morenos are but two of the tens of thousands of families who receive surprise medical bills every year. These are “balance bills,” that seek to hold patients responsible for charges their insurers won’t pay. The problem is so bad and so Continue reading


Coalition Letter Opposing Blocking Parental Access to Critical Vaccinations

Coalition

To: Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CC: CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices

Dear Dr. Frieden and CDC Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices Members,

We write to you today in support of a family’s right to access to safe, effective vaccines for their children. Vaccines have saved millions of lives since their invention and near universal vaccination rates have eradicated a number of horrible diseases from small pox to polio. Unfortunately certain diseases like Meningitis B, the cause of 40% of all meningitis cases in 2012, could persist because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may opt to block access to life-­‐saving vaccinations.

In late February, your Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet to determine the accessibility of two vaccines the Food and Drug administration recently approved to prevent Meningitis B. ACIP, and therefore CDC, appears poised to recommend its usage only for “high-­‐risk group/outbreaks,” meaning private health insurance will cover the cost of vaccination only after an outbreak of this deadly disease has occurred. Continue reading


Health-care myths we live by

Medicaid-Medicare-Medicine-Medical Policyby Charles Krauthammer

Swedish researchers report that antioxidants make cancers worse in mice. It’s already known that the antioxidant beta-carotene exacerbates lung cancers in humans. Not exactly what you’d expect given the extravagant — and incessant — claims you hear made about the miraculous effects of antioxidants.

In fact, they are either useless or harmful, conclude the editors of the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine: “Beta-carotene, vitamin E and possibly high doses of vitamin A supplements are harmful.” Moreover, “other antioxidants, folic acid and B vitamins, and multivitamin and mineral supplements are ineffective for preventing mortality or morbidity due to major chronic diseases.” So useless are the supplements, write the editors, that we should stop wasting time even studying them: “Further large prevention trials are no longer justified.”

Such revisionism is a constant in medicine. When I was a child, tonsillectomies were routine. We now know that, except for certain indications, this is grossly unnecessary surgery. Not quite as harmful as that once-venerable staple, bloodletting (which probably killed George Washington), but equally mindless. Continue reading


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