Shift is preparing for the end of this most, well, unique year, mainly by looking forward to the political changes that 2021 will bring. We have been reaching out to friends and colleagues whose opinions we value, asking for their thoughts on aspects of issues facing people across our state which deserve more attention.
The first of these responses comes from Eastern Washington, where the head of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce, Colin Hastings, writes to remind us that there are numerous health care issues connected to COVID-19 which require improved cooperation and less heated political rhetoric.
Our leaders must unite in the fight against COVID 19
Now that the election is (largely) behind us, we need our elected leaders to focus on COVID-19 and related health care issues. Our elected leaders must put the election rancor behind them and come together to implement policies which facilitate the development and distribution of vaccines and therapies for COVID-19, so that we can fully open up our economy again.
Fortunately, thanks to the American biopharmaceutical industry’s unparalleled research and development capability, the FDA has approved this county’s first COVID-19 vaccine, with more to follow.
Prior to the election, and before this development, we witnessed Congress’ inability to agree on anything, and President Trump trying to solve problems via executive orders. Now, after voters have returned divided government to power, our elected leaders must implement real solutions to the pressing problems we face in health care.
Consider one component of the health care puzzle which has remained largely overlooked. On November 20th, President Trump announced that he would be moving forward with a pre-election executive order on Medicare policy known as “Most Favored Nation” (MFN). This policy requires Medicare to purchase certain drugs based on the price that a list of other developed countries pay, with Medicare paying the lowest price based off this pool (the “most favored” part).
At the time, the President stated his reason for the executive order was to reduce the cost of prescription medications, and prevent the U.S. from continuing to subsidize the cost of research and development for the entire world. Clearly these are worthy and important goals, but MFN is not to way address these challenges.
The problem with that solution is that it would stifle development of cutting-edge cures and limit patient access to certain prescription medications. The U.S. has the best availability of innovative cures and therapies in the world, and we need to ensure that Americans are not denied access to the medications they need.
Under the MFN rule, prescription drug prices would be tied to the lowest price available in the list of developed countries, many of which have socialized health care systems. Price controls in many of those counties has decimated their own biopharmaceutical industries. These countries however have benefited from the America’s pro-innovation regulatory environment, and world class universities which encourage capital investment and enable innovation in the U.S.
Congress must also reject any dangerous government price-setting policies like MFN. Such proposals would disrupt our free enterprise system, risking the biopharmaceutical innovation that is critical to delivering vaccines and treatments to combat COVID-19. We cannot let unwarranted political interference in health care threaten the development of innovative treatments and cures.
It is incumbent upon our newly elected leaders to keep their campaign promises and do everything in their power to support the biopharmaceutical industry in their efforts to develop and distribute vaccines for COVID-19. Our small businesses and economy are depending on it.
Instead of hampering innovation in the middle of a pandemic, policymakers could address patients’ concerns with insurance companies. Americans are frustrated high prescription drug costs and lawmakers should work on lowering out-of-pocket costs for patients when going to the pharmacy. Many Americans are paying more for their health insurance and feel they are getting less and less coverage every year. It’s time to address these concerns and make insurance work for patients.
COVID-19 is a major challenge to individuals, families, our health care system, our economy, and our very way of life. Our leaders must put the election year acrimony behind them, and focus on dealing with the many challenges related to the pandemic.