The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently put out a report titled, “Making Medicines Affordable: A National Imperative.” The title itself is a trap that the authors are hoping critics fall into.
There is nothing more uncontroversial than making medicine affordable. Argue with that premise and it’s almost like favoring making medicine more expensive and harder to get.
Unfortunately, consumers have been down this road before, recently. It doesn’t end well.
The authors suggest a laundry list of very bad ideas. They want more government regulation at every level for the drug industry. This would lead to price controls and government-mandated rationing of care. It could also decrease competition, reduce consumer choice, damage relationships between patients and their doctors, and even hike prices.
If there is doubt that any of those outcomes are likely from greater regulation of one segment of the healthcare industry, all that has to be done is see how Obamacare is failing.
With its skyrocketing premiums, thin networks of doctors and specialists, consolidation of health insurance providers, and bona fide increase in mortality for Americans — reducing a decades-long positive trend — it looks a lot more like a sad cry for help than a program that guarantees affordable access to medical care.
And yet, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) banging on about how what is really needed to fix America is more socialism, the NAS seems utterly unable to see their nose in front of its own face.
For starters, they want the government to butt into private negotiations on Medicare Part D, which pays for prescription drugs. This would undermine the competitive structure of the program that has already saved taxpayers a lot of money. The Congressional Budget Office calculates it has cost almost $350 billion less than the government’s initial 10-year cost estimate. That’s right, one-third of a trillion dollars in savings.
The authors want to introduce “closed formularies,” which is jargon for saying that the government would decide in advance that only certain drugs in each class are covered — as few as one drug per class.
This restriction would mean that patients and doctors would have practically no say in what is prescribed to treat various conditions. This is insane considering that different drugs can have different effects and side effects and that people can have allergic reactions to one drug that might treat the problem but not another.
Right now, patients and physicians have the leeway that they need to use choice and experience to find the right drug for the problem. Under this plan, in the name of “making medicine affordable,” poof! that’s gone.
The authors insist that reimportation of drugs is a solution that would solve the problem they would be creating, of rationing vital medicines in the name of seeking more “value.” The truth is that reimportation is not the perfect fix they hold it out to be because there can be issues with allowing in drugs from other countries that may not be safe. And, the suggestion reeks of intentional distraction anyway. It substitutes magical thinking for sober consideration.
Ultimately, there is no easy fix to the problem of drug pricing. But the system we have in place is actually working much better than expected. It’s not a good idea to throw away an approach that’s already saved taxpayers a third of a trillion dollars.
David Williams is the president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.