Back during the Obamacare debate, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) infamously characterized the Republican health care plan as “die quickly.” Now, nearly eight years later, Hillary Clinton is willingly accepting the support of people who want to offer America’s poor that very option, continuing the legacy of another well-heeled puppet, Barack Obama.
And who is offering that message? Simple: Big Pharma.
As anyone following pharma’s current legislative agenda knows, the industry’s biggest cause this year seems to be significantly curtailing the 340B drug pricing program. 340B, as a quick reminder, requires pharmaceutical companies to sell their drugs at lower prices to children’s hospitals, rural hospitals, and hospitals that treat primarily poor patients, in exchange for access to the Medicaid and Medicare Part B prescription drug markets. It does this at no cost to taxpayers, and is one of those light touch policies that prevents the health care market from becoming precisely the sort of Dickensian nightmare that so many advocates of socialized medicine like to imagine.
And, most importantly for our purposes, it is a policy that disproportionately benefits the very people whose plight Hillary and Obama have disingenuously wrung their hands over for years: namely, the urban poor.
The reason is that one of the categories of hospitals that benefits most from 340B are so-called safety-net hospitals – hospitals that treat uninsured and underinsured patients, typically with a policy of not turning a single person away. The Center for Advancing Health has noted that when these hospitals close due to outsized costs, it hits the poor and uninsured the hardest.
According to a study by JAMA Surgery, the hospitals that face the highest costs from providing “safety-net” services treat a disproportionate number of patients who are in the lowest income bracket, suffering from the most severe illnesses, and who tend to be young and black. All things you would think would make a liberal like Hillary, to say nothing of the first black president, opposed to an industry that seeks to gouge them for extra money.
No such luck. Hillary has already racked up more money in donations from the pharmaceutical industry than any other 2016 contender in either party. And given that Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is on record regarding his intentions to whip the industry into shape, that advantage is likely to only increase. Even if Obama had done nothing to help pharma, his track record of sociopathic partisanship would most likely stop him from doing anything to endanger Hillary’s gravy train.
But of course, Obama has done many things to help the drug industry. His peas-in-a-pod coziness with medicine manufacturers is well-established. Having struck a Faustian bargain with Big Pharma to assure the passage of Obamacare without their resistance – a bargain which brought the industry a grand total of $35 billion in profits – and having counted on them for $20 million in support when he first ran, Obama is almost always ready at pharma’s beck and call. Worse, the few times that he tries to buck the industry, he finds himself ruthlessly cut off at the heels by his own party. At times it seems that one may as well have pressed a giant stamp on the White House announcing “The First Black President, Brought To You By Pfizer.”
In other words, while Hillary and Obama talk a good game about helping the least well-off, their cronies (or arguably, the people who’ve made cronies of them) are utterly uninterested in doing anything of the kind. In fact, they want to squeeze the poor even harder, with liberal politicians acting as human shields. It is time for the working class to ponder the same question Donald Trump posed to gays in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings: Who will do more to help them? Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with their words, or conservatives like Trump with actions?