Soon-to-be President Donald Trump wants “healthcare for everybody.” If that sounds very much like Hillary Clinton from 1992 and President Obama from 2008, that’s because it is the same.
Trumpcare as generally described by Trump is not what the will of Congress, or the will of the American people, want. They want something that’s not insane; something affordable; something flexible, and above all, they don’t want Obamacare 2.0.
But one thing Trump wants is sorely needed.
In addition to his replacement plan for the ACA, also known as Obamacare, Trump said he will target pharmaceutical companies over drug prices.
“They’re politically protected, but not anymore,” he said of pharmaceutical companies.
Big Pharma is the modern equivalent of railroad robber barons. They have an effective monopoly on new drugs through patents, they spend incredible amounts of money advertising all kinds of products that working folks don’t really understand (“see your doctor”), and they charge whatever they want.
No other modern country has the system America uses for drug approval and distribution. The FDA is a mess. Drug companies like Mylan Pharmaceuticals enjoy a “special” relationship with Congress (CEO Heather Bresch is the daughter of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin). Mylan is the company ripping off Americans for life-saving Epipens.
Drug distributors pump hundreds of addictive opioids per person into West Virginia and other rust-belt states where addiction has reached epidemic levels. They flaunt non-existent regulators and get away with it.
Just a month ago, I wrote that the government should take over generic drug manufacturing. Trump’s plan may or may not follow my suggestions, but the fact that he’s making it a centerpiece in whatever replaces Obamacare is encouraging.
Drug prices affect every aspect of traditional medical care. They drive up hospital costs, doctor visit costs, and home health care costs. Keeping drug costs in check is the lowest of low-hanging fruit to lowering overall health care costs.
All that being said, I think it’s a terrible idea to do what’s in the lede of the Washington Post article.
President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody,” while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid.
Forcing the drug companies to negotiate in Medicare and Medicaid would ruin everything unless they were also forced to set market prices at the same time. This is the same issue I have with Medicare and hospital and provider charges. When those charges are low, the providers charge even more to private insurers and individuals, so we end up with ridiculous $200 fees for a Tylenol.
Either all drug prices should be subject to some sane market pricing controls, or let Medicare and Medicaid pay the same prices as everyone else. I am a strong proponent of the free market, but drugs and health care are really not commodities like potatoes or corn (or milk) which are subject to more price controls than drugs.
I think Trump will have to work with Democrats to pass whatever Trumpcare ends up being, since Republicans aren’t going to go for something that will get them thrown out of office in 2018. Then again, if they vote against Trump, they might get thrown out anyway–this must be what Democrats felt like in 2010. As usual with Trump, he over-promised and will be forced to under-deliver.
But if he can at least fix our out of control drug prices and end the era of Big Pharma robber barons, at least that’s something.