By: Jim Brown, Jim Brown's Common Sense
If you watched the presidential debate last week, the only real winner was the guy who wore the red sweater and asked an intelligent policy question about energy. His Izod sweater has become a hot clothing item at stores all over America. He has become a media sensation, simply because he has legitimate concerns over issues, not the personal peccadillos of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Most Americans have several major concerns. First of all, they want to be kept safe. And they want affordable healthcare. Trump's answer for affordable healthcare is to abolish Obamacare. Clinton says just "tweak" Obamacare more. But the medical costs keep going up and neither candidate has any specific solutions.
One would think that the Louisiana congressional delegation, with four members being physicians, would be in the lead by offering legislation to deal with increasing high costs. But nary a word from the doctors who are Bayou State Representatives and a U.S. Senator.
Here is one of the big problems that need addressing. Back in 2003, Congress added Medicare Part D as a new and important benefit for seniors over 65 to allow for prescription drugs. But as the legislation was about to pass into law, the pharmaceutical industry slipped in a provision prohibiting the federal government form negotiating price reductions. So the United States government, that has the largest buying power on the planet, is prohibited by law from negotiating drug prices with Big Pharma.
Drug prices, in many instances, are completely out of control, yet drug companies have a monopoly, and can charge any price they want. How could Congress allow such a sweetheart deal? Could it be that the pharmaceutical industry pours hundreds of millions of dollars into the campaign coffers of numerous congressmen?
Here is just one of many glaring examples. A drug called Havoni, which is known by it brand name Sovaldi, is a cure for hepatitis C, an infection that can kill. The company did not develop the drug, but only bought the patent and began producing and selling it. The drug costs one dollar to manufacture. But the federal government is being charged $1000. That's right. One thousand dollars! A typical course of treatment will last 12 weeks and run $84,000, plus the cost of necessary companion drugs.
And get this. The actual cost of producing the drug is about one dollar a pill. One Dollar! The company that makes the drug billed the federal government $15 billion last year. This very same drug sells in India for $4.00 a pill. And can it get worse? Yes! The company's profits are being funneled to Ireland so that few if any taxes are paid to the U.S.
This is just one of numerous examples where exorbitant price gouging has caused both Medicare and Medicaid to be on the verge of bankruptcy, and will require a massive infusion of taxpayer dollars to keep both programs afloat. There is absolutely no legitimate justification for the federal government not to be able to negotiate drug prices as any other private business can do. Decision s about drug laws should not be based on the influence of campaign contributions, as is the current case.
Here is what every Louisiana voter should do. Two doctors are running for U.S. Senate, current Congressmen John Fleming and Charles Boustany, and one doctor, Congressman Ralph Abraham is running for re-election. One other doctor is current U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy. Corner them at a debate or town hall meeting, and ask them directly. Will they commit to author and support legislation that will repeal any prohibition that keeps the federal government from negotiating drug prices? If they won't agree on the spot, make it clear they will not have your support in the future.
Every Louisiana voter should be outraged, and consider who has voted to allow this rip off to happen come election day in November. Taxpayers deserve much better.
Our fragmented insurance system has not until now provided any counterweight to drug companies who want to raise prices.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown's syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com
. You can also hear Jim's nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com