Opinion

OPINION: Bernie Sanders Wraps Arms Around HHS Azar’s Socialist Price Control Index

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Rick Amato Host, Politics and Profits with Rick Amato

Well, now we know who supports the idea to set U.S. drug prices based on an index of the price control rates set by socialist single-payer governments in Europe: Bernie Sanders.

Last week, Sanders introduced a bill replicating and expanding in legislation a proposal recently put forward by Alex Azar, the head of the Health and Human Services Department (HHS). Sanders is “piggybacking” on the Azar proposal, according to a Politico report.

If you’re confused, yes, Sanders is the avowedly socialist senator from Vermont, who among many other claims to fame, honeymooned in the Soviet Union. And Azar was appointed by Republican president Donald Trump.

Sanders is also the author of the “Medicare for All” plan to nationalize our health care system. Under his proposal, private insurance would be outlawed and citizens would be forced into a government-run health care system.

There is little doubt where Bernie Sanders stands on issues regarding health care — he wants government command and control. Unfortunately, when it comes to the price of prescription drugs, Mr. Azar takes a similar position. These two comrades in arms share the same view of how to address health care costs: government-imposed price controls.

Azar’s proposal would establish a price index from 16 predominantly single-payer European nations (a few market-oriented outliers were excluded) and use it as the basis for Medicare payments for those drugs.

“Price index” is a misnomer, however. Each of the countries from which the index is composed sets arbitrary prices by government fiat. It’s actually a “price control index.”

It’s no surprise this is favored by Sanders. For Sanders and other socialists, price controls are the hammer, and every problem is a nail.

What is surprising is that Azar, a Trump appointee, would find himself aligned with Sanders and the far-left championing a policy that will decimate the research and development process and eventually lead to rationing.

You know it’s bad when Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, brother of Rahm and key architect of Obamacare, is the voice of reason in a story.

“One question … is why would the [United States] outsource our determination of the right price to other countries and not just make an independent assessment ourselves?” Emanuel told Politico. “Why do we think Canada and Germany [are] better than we are at determining the right price?”

The question is especially poignant when you include the fact that in the case of the U.S. market, prices are set by supply and demand, as America is one of the few places left on earth where the drug market is more-or-less market-based. Canada, Germany, and other countries on the socialist price control index set their prices by fiat based on political tradeoffs.

Trump has had more than his share of renegade cabinet officials but linking ideological arms with Bernie Sanders may take the cake. Populism is one thing, but government-set pricing based off of what socialist bureaucrats of other countries impose is another.

Azar should publicly renounce his proposed socialist price control index before any further damage is done. In fact, the real damage, however, will be to consumers, the sick and senior citizens who rely on prescription drugs. To paraphrase famed economist Milton Friedman, politicians may not know much about economics, but they do know how to produce shortages. That is exactly what price controls do.

Rick Amato (@AmatoTalkis a former financial adviser for Merrill Lynch and founded the Amato Wealth Management Group. He is currently the host of Politics And Profits with Rick Amato and co-hosts Jobenomics America TV. 


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.