Ducey Wants to Flatten the Curve, Not Shutdown the Great Outdoors

By Calamity June

On Monday, March 30th, Governor Doug Ducey issued an Executive Order suggesting Arizonans “stay home, stay healthy and stay connected.”  Governor Ducey went on to state Arizonans should “limit their time away from home and if they do go out, to ensure social distancing.”  Finally, Arizonans are “staying home because it’s the right thing to do.”  Governor Ducey remarked, “when you use words like shelter in place, that’s what happens during a nuclear attack.”

This means our state’s hiking trails and parks can remain open for people to enjoy and get some exercise as long as we all practice physical distancing.  

During his news conference, Ducey listed off “essential services,” and stressed how the grocery store’s shelves would remain stocked and drug stores would remain open.  Restaurants would still be open for takeout and delivery.  Furthermore, he encouraged people to only purchase a week’s worth of groceries. As President Donald Trump and others have noted, the supply chain is operable and there is no reason to hoard anything.  Don’t be greedy. 

This means our state’s hiking trails and parks can remain open for people to enjoy and get some exercise as long as we all practice physical distancing.  

US Senator Kyrsten Sinema had a phone call earlier in the day on Monday 30th with a lot of the liberal mayors in Arizona pushing them to defy Governor Ducey and issue their own “shelter in place” order. After the mayors’ call, the mayor of Phoenix issued her own directive to close all of Phoenix’s hiking trails.  

Fortunately, Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio embodies the duty to present the calm during COVID-19.  God Bless Councilman DiCiccio for pushing back against Mayor Gallego every time she has pushed to shut down anything in Phoenix.  

Listen to Councilman DiCiccio on Seth Leibsohn’s March 31st radio show.  As you will hear, Councilman DiCiccio remarked how the city isn’t sanitizing the light rail or the buses. Why aren’t they closing public transportation? Why does the mayor want to close our parks and hiking trails?  It doesn’t add up.

On April 1st, City Hall is scheduled to vote on closing the city’s parks, including its hiking trails.  Also, according to the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation’s website, the mayor has decided unilaterally to temporarily close the city’s playgrounds, fitness equipment, basketball and volleyball courts, and sports complexes in its public parks effective Tuesday, March 31st at 5pm until further notice.

Being on a hiking trail in the Phoenix sun is one of the best ways to keep your body healthy.  Practice safe social distancing. Being outdoors is good for one’s health and wellness. It even states as much on Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation Department’s website. Be sure to call City Hall and let them know you want to keep our parks and hiking trails open during COVID-19.

Responding to Coronavirus without limiting freedom

The spread of the coronavirus has been rampant across the globe crippling countries like Italy, Iran, and South Korea where government-run institutions are the ones solely responsible for fighting the outbreak. But, luckily for residents of the United States, our nation operates a bit differently. Because our healthcare system adheres to free market principles, we have the ability to have private industry collaborate with the federal government to help combat the coronavirus which was categorized just last week by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a global pandemic.

Every day in America, researchers from biopharmaceutical companies are working endlessly to solve the world’s most sophisticated medical issues. As the global leader in medical innovation, the world looks to us in times of crisis. The reason being is our free market approach to healthcare has led to massive private investment and unprecedented funding for the research being carried out by the best and brightest scientific minds in the world who are incentivized to work right here in America.

Simply put, thanks to our private healthcare system that has resulted in decades of massive investment from biopharmaceutical companies, the U.S. is uniquely positioned to lead the charge against the coronavirus today and any other epidemic that may threaten our society tomorrow.

The irony of large scale epidemics like coronavirus is the clear realization of why we have the system that we do. Lamentably, several legislators on Capitol Hill have forgotten the importance of our free market approach both domestically and globally.

For example, just last year a bill led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi made its way through the House of Representatives that, if it becomes law, would decimate funding for new biopharmaceutical research and development. HR3, more commonly known as “The Lower Drug Costs Now Act”, would stifle future innovation by implementing socialist style government price controls on biopharmaceutical companies as a way to drive down high drug costs.

The adoption of government price controls in the pharmaceutical space is not only short-sighted but flat-out dangerous to public health. People often ask, “why do we pay more for drugs in the U.S. compared to other countries”, the answer is because we invest more in cures and treatments than any other country, and today, everyone should be very happy about that fact.

It’s terrifying to think what the coronavirus outbreak would look like if HR3 had passed 20 years ago. If we are to survive outbreaks and even outpace them, we must have our research teams working at full capacity at all times. In a world of uncertainty, there is no such thing as over-preparedness.

“Do No Harm” in the effort to lower drug costs

As we enter a new decade, advances in medicine hold the promise for a brighter future in the battle against deadly diseases like cancer.  Advances in immunotherapy and targeted gene therapy, for example, present opportunities not even imagined just few years ago.  The challenge for politicians and policy makers is to keep these life-saving advancements coming, while at the same time keeping them affordable for patients.

Getting this balance right is especially important to the large population of Seniors we have in Arizona.

Just 15 years ago a Republican Congress and President modernized Medicare by creating a prescription drug benefit called Medicare Part D.  Unlike other parts of Medicare, Part D was designed on the free-market principles of plan competition and senior choice.  Recognizing that one size does not fit all, every year Seniors have a choice of a variety of plans who compete vigorously for their business.  In order to keep their premiums low and attract Seniors to sign up, plans have a strong incentive to drive a hard bargain with drug manufacturers to keep prices down.

Affordable Drugs

It comes as no surprise to conservatives, that Part D’s free-market model has worked.  When the legislation was passed, the Congressional Budget Office estimated both the cost of the program to Medicare and the average monthly premium a Senior would pay, for the first 10 years of the program.  The actual results were remarkable. 

Medicare spending was 35-40% less than predicted and average monthly premiums projected to be $55 or more in 2016 are in fact only $32.70 in 2020 and that is a slight decrease from 2019.  In addition to these financial measure of success, Part D maintains a Senior Satisfaction Rate in excess of 90%, unheard of for most government programs.

Despite this success, big government advocates like Nancy Pelosi want undermine Medicare Part D and its sister program Medicare Advantage, by importing government price controls from socialist countries.  What is known as an International Pricing Index (IPI) is included in her signature drug pricing legislation which passed the House of Representatives last December. 

President Trump has correctly pointed out that many advanced economies around the world which have socialist health care systems are not paying their fair share of R&D costs for new drugs.  They are freeloading on American consumers.  But the answer is to stop these unfair trade practices, not import their socialist price fixing to the US!

Socialist health systems hold down cost by rationing drugs.  They either wait a long time to make new drugs available to their people, or they are never available.  Writing in Forbes in February 2020 author Doug Schoen points out that “roughly 96% of new cancer medicines are made available in the United States, while the 16 countries used in the International Pricing Index only have 55% of new cancer medicines.  Further, patients in these 16 countries also receive these medications on average 17 months after release, whereas in the United States, patients have almost immediate access to new cancer medicines following FDA approval”.

These cold statistics translate into patient’s lives.  An HIS Markit study published in 2018 “Comparing Health Outcome Due to Drug Access: A Model in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer,” concludes that half of the gains in life expectancy we have made in fighting lung cancer, the number one cancer killer worldwide, would have been lost if the rationing policies found in Australia, Canada, France, South Korea and the United Kingdom were replicated in the US.”

Government price controls on drugs are not the answer.  But neither is doing nothing.  Fortunately, Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Congressman Greg Walden (R-Oregon 2) have introduced legislation to help. 

Their legislation, S. 3129 and H.R. 19, preserve the free-market competition which has worked so well in both Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage, but directs that more of the savings from negotiations with drug manufacturers flow directly to the consumer at the pharmacy counter in the form of immediate discounts.  They also cap the annual out-of-pocket spending Seniors must pay for prescription drugs. 

The legislation also takes steps to reduce the freeloading of other developed nations on our R&D and streamlines coordination between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Medicare to insure that new treatment reach Seniors as quickly as possible.

Doctors take an oath, “First, do no harm.”  That’s good advice for politicians and policy makers as well.  Taking steps to lower drug costs to Seniors is important.  But we must do it the right way or we will harm those we are trying to help.

Goldwater Institute: The Arizona Department of Education’s Latest Epic Fail

Matt Beienburg, Director of Education, Goldwater Institute

Last week brought news that the Arizona Department of Education had inadvertently released the personal information of the nearly 7,000 families who make use of Empowerment Savings Accounts (ESA). And it’s not the first time the Department has mishandled the ESA program, a program that helps so many children—many of them with special needs—get the customized education they need to succeed.

On Monday, it was revealed that the Department released a spreadsheet that included the account balances of every ESA account in the state, along with the names, email addresses, and other personal information of the nearly 7,000 parents with ESA accounts. Not only was the spreadsheet containing the sensitive information sent to the Yellow Sheet Report, but it was also shared with Save Our Schools, a group that has been an outspoken opponent of ESAs.

Unfortunately, this latest epic fail on the part of the state Department of Education is part of a pattern of poor management of the ESA program. Earlier in January, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Education’s long delays in supplying needed funds to which ESA families are entitled—delays long enough to force parents to pay out of pocket for tutoring and teaching tools that their ESA should cover without the possibility of reimbursement. While requiring families to follow its ESA rules to the letter, the Department of Education’s handling of the ESA program has still resulted in unpredictable and arbitrary outcomes for families—for instance, some families have been rejected for certain ESA expenses while others have been approved for the very same expenses.

“Mistakes do happen, but I don’t think that’s good enough as an excuse. That doesn’t undo the damage, the harm to these families,” Goldwater Institute Director of Education Policy Matt Beienburg said of the privacy breach on KJZZ’s “The Show.” “These are families with deeply personal life circumstances, these are kids with special needs diagnoses, and this information is now essentially made available to be dragged out into the public.

“For the Department to have treated these families this way saying ‘we have zero tolerance for any misstep’ and to then make a massive blunder like this is really revealing.”

Listen to the interview here: https://theshow.kjzz.org/sites/default/files/ade-data-breach-show-sg-mb-20200129.mp3?uuid=5e3b8ffd9e654

Matt Beienburg is Director of Education at the Goldwater Institute. You can read his bio here.

Rep. Petersen Introduces Bill to Stop Rollovers of K-12 Funding

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Majority Leader Warren Petersen (R-12) issued a statement today regarding legislation he has introduced for the 2020 session that would amend the state constitution to prohibit K-12 rollovers, ensuring that education funding is delivered to our schools on time, and in full. A rollover represents a deferral of the payment from the year in which the obligation was incurred to the next fiscal year.

Rep Warren Petersen
Rep. Warren Petersen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

“In the mid-2000s, Arizona implemented budget gimmicks like K-12 rollovers to counter poor fiscal decisions and a faltering economy,” said Representative Petersen.  “Fortunately, under conservative leadership, Arizona has righted its fiscal ship and the economy is strong.  But we need to be prepared for a future downturn.  Arizona has taken some excellent decisions like paying off debt and amassing a billion-dollar rainy day fund.  Now it’s time to eliminate the K-12 rollover and prevent future utilization.  A statutory change would be too easy to go around.  That’s why I have introduced a constitutional amendment to prohibit the deferment of K-12 payments from one budget year to the next.”

OHPI: Trump Impeachment – A Closer Look

Impeachment is a hot-button issue with high engagement among Arizonans

PHOENIX (Nov. 14, 2019) – Arizona’s registered Hispanic voters want to see Trump Impeached but the president’s main base, white male voters, are sticking with him a new poll shows.

A majority of Arizona’s Hispanic voters would like to see the president impeached and removed with 57% in favor, 37% against. Among non-Hispanic voters, only 39% favor impeachment and removal and 49% are against impeachment.

“Hispanics make up nearly one-third of Arizona’s total population and they are becoming more engaged at the ballot box,” said Mike Noble, Chief of Research and Managing Partner of Phoenix-based research company OH Predictive Insights. 

When it comes to gender, the divides are less clear. A slim majority of male registered voters in Arizona believe that Trump should not be impeached — 51%. While women are evenly split with 44% of female voters thinking that Trump should be impeached and removed and 44% thinking he shouldn’t be.

There are also differences among Arizona’s electorate on the impeachment question by age. By a 5-point margin, voters aged 54 and under believe that Trump should be impeached and removed. On the other hand, by a 17-point margin, more voters 55 and older think that the president should not be impeached and removed from office than think he should be.

Another constituency key with which Donald Trump will need to do well to win reelection in 2020 are voters who live in Maricopa County. Nearly 6 out of every 10 votes that are cast on election day comes from this county and in 2016 it voted for President Trump over Hillary Clinton by roughly 7 points. According to this poll, 46% of registered voters in Maricopa County would like to see Trump impeached and removed from office while only 42% would like him to stay in office.

Among regions in Arizona, Maricopa County has the highest level of support for impeachment. In Pima County, 51% of voters do not want President Trump to be impeached and removed compared to 41% who do. The president is viewed more favorably in the rest of Arizona, voters are against his impeachment by a 2-to-1 margin.

On another note, many Arizonans are engaged in the impeachment issue. For example, 43% of respondents have discussed the issue with someone else, 39% have watched more news on TV, and 30% have researched the issue online.

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MethodologyThis survey was conducted via an online opt-in panel. The survey was completed by OH Predictive Insights between October 31, 2019, and November 8, 2019 with respondents self-qualifying as registered to vote in Arizona. The sample is weighted to accurately reflect Arizona voter registration by region, party affiliation, gender, and age. The sample size was 900 completed surveys, with an MoE of ± 3.27%. Numbers may not total 100%, due to rounding.

OHPI POLL: To Impeach or Not to Impeach

POLL: More Arizonans Disapprove of Trump but Fewer Want Him Removed from Office

PHOENIX (Nov. 13, 2019) – With public impeachment hearings starting up this week, Arizonans are split on whether President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office, a poll released Wednesday shows.

The statewide poll among registered voters found 42 percent of Arizonans believe Trump should be impeached and removed and 47 percent do not believe he should be impeached.

The same poll also found Trump’s approval rating underwater in the Grand Canyon State. Fifty percent of Arizona registered voters disapprove of President Trump’s performance and 46% approve of his performance. 

Sentiment regarding Trump’s job performance is split on party lines with 82% of Republicans, 12% of Democrats, and 41% of Independents giving the president a positive rating.

On the question of impeachment, Arizonans are also split sharply along partisan lines. Democrats in Arizona believe Trump should be impeached by a 69-point margin (80 percent to 11 percent) and Republicans think Trump should stay in office by a similarly large 66-point margin (79 percent – 13 percent). While a majority of independent voters disapprove of the job Trump is doing in office, they are less certain that he should be removed from office. Only 39% of registered independents think that he should be removed and 46% think that he should remain in office.

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MethodologyThis survey was conducted via an online opt-in panel. The survey was completed by OH Predictive Insights between October 31, 2019, and November 8, 2019 with respondents self-qualifying as registered to vote in Arizona. The sample is weighted to accurately reflect Arizona voter registration by region, party affiliation, gender, and age. The sample size was 900 completed surveys, with an MoE of ± 3.27%. Numbers may not total 100%, due to rounding.

About OH Predictive Insights:
Phoenix-based OH Predictive Insights provides accurate polling, focus groups, data analytics, and advanced targeted marketing to political and non-political clients alike. With leading professionals in the advertising, communication, polling and political arenas, OH Predictive Insights will service political and non-political clients looking to improve their footing on key stakeholders and consumers. For more information, please call 602-402-5181 or submit a request online.

Rural Arizona Doesn’t Need Surprises on Mental Health Care Access

By Timothy Alan

Each year, I plunge into the wilderness for weeks at a time. The experience is a salve for my mental outlook. “Getting away from it all” is an effective wellness strategy. But it’s important to remember, serious issues like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and substance abuse disorders do not resolve themselves with a temporary escape.

Treatment is essential. Unfortunately, in rural Arizona, mental health services can be incredibly hard to come by—and sadly, help could soon become even more difficult to access.

That’s because new legislation in Congress could worsen our state’s already severe shortage of mental health professionals. Elected leaders in Washington are moving rapidly on a plan to add price controls to the health care market. The proposal was crafted to relieve families of the risk of large, surprise medical bills for out-of-network health care services, but legislators’ good intentions cannot erase the detrimental consequences they would engender by enacting this law.

Price controls on any market are a recipe for shortages. When applied to food, the result was the bread lines of the former Soviet Union. When used on medicines, price controls contributed to the violent upheavals in Venezuela. If we add price controls to America’s health care system, including many behavioral health services, similar outcomes will follow.

This is unacceptable. Already more than 2.8 million Arizonans live in areas with too few mental health professionals. Our state is meeting less than 12 percent of the existing need for behavioral health services and would require nearly 200 more practitioners to catch up.[1] We won’t attract them if we have price controls.

I deliver wilderness-based therapeutic care for troubled teens and youth, and I can tell you, most of my clients with mental health challenges struggle to get help. A lack of psychiatrists and other providers is a problem we share with small towns, frontier regions, and remote communities across the nation, and it is putting our children in jeopardy. In fact, the suicide rate for young people in rural areas is almost twice as high as in urban regions.[2]

Without sufficient mental health experts, rural hospitals and clinics cannot provide life-saving emergency and inpatient psychiatric care for patients in imminent danger. And because the prognosis for mental illness improves with early treatment, our inability to direct behavioral health services to children, teens, and young adults condemns too many residents to more severe illness than they’d likely have suffered with more timely intervention.

Although my focus is on mental health, the effects of federal price control legislation would extend much farther into the health care system. Rural patients would be less able to access air ambulances to speed them to urgently needed care. The number of specialists, from heart doctors to trauma surgeons, would plummet from already low numbers. Patients would have to travel great distances for care, and non-critical cases would be shunted aside until a patient’s situation reaches crisis levels.

These outcomes are as predictable as they are life-threatening. Price controls never turn out any differently. It’s unclear how our elected leaders stumbled so far off course in their efforts to address health care affordability, but they need to return to their senses and protect—not endanger—Arizonans’ access to care.

Timothy Alan is a behavioral health specialist with ANASAZI.

[1] https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/mental-health-care-health-professional-shortage-areas-hpsas/?currentTimeframe=0&selectedRows=%7B%22states%22:%7B%22arizona%22:%7B%7D%7D%7D&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/03/09/the-suicide-rate-for-young-people-is-much-higher-in-rural-areas/

Stephanie Grisham, the silent spokeswoman

Having been with the administration from the beginning and a significant portion of the campaign, one would expect that Arizonan Stephanie Grisham would have understood what she was getting her self into with Donald Trump and Company. But since relieving Sarah Huckabee Sanders of the post, the new White House Spokeswoman has been unusually quiet.

In a recent Politico article, Grisham is said to be mulling over changes to the White House communications team and, catching up on the huge array of policy positions and affixing her nameplate to her office door.

Why Grisham has chosen a strategic silence is political journalistic speculation. Since her arrival, the President has escalated his unconventional hands-on messaging to a new and offensive level. Grisham is wise enough to know its not in her best interest to try and control the messaging of someone who thrives on having their ego front and center.

Rep Bob Thorpe Deserves Better

The Republican Primary in Arizona’s LD-6 Senate race has taken some unconventional twists and turns. Turns, because State Senator Sylvia Allen, drawn to spend more time with her children and family in Snowflake, decided not to seek re-election earlier this year but then suddenly changed her mind, some say not by choice and under a lot of pressure by operatives. Twists, because GOP “leaders” and self-appointed kingmakers in the district are rumored to have issued primary support and endorsements to keep Allen in the race.

In the House, Representative Bob Thorpe is term-limited and planning to seek the Senate nomination and seat in 2020. The primary was already set between Thorpe and Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers until Allen did an about-face.

State Representative Bob Thorpe

According to reliable sources, Republican donors and activists met in Payson on June 15th behind closed doors where they decided to intervene in the primary against all Republican standards and practices. During the meeting led by Sedona Republicans Dwight and Andrea Kadar, Thorpe was asked to leave the room while Allen remained. Under tremendous pressure, Allen was told to get back in the race as she fought back tears.

What emerged was an endorsement of Sylvia Allen; a dictate not to support Thorpe through money and manpower; and likely, State Senate and House leadership support to help Allen win the primary (probably through a rare employed primary PAC committee). Thorpe’s political consultant even bailed on him and is probably expected to run (and benefit) from the leadership PAC against Thorpe.

Apparently, party leaders are trying to clear the field for Sylvia Allen in order to make it easier for her to keep the seat.

State Senator Sylvia Allen (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

What is ironic in all this is Sylvia Allen (who this blog is actually a fan of) and her promoters should remember how party leadership treated her back in 2010 when a handful of Eastern Arizona “kingmakers” tried to run her out of the Republican Primary in LD-5. At the time, Allen who had replaced the late Jake Flake and won the seat in 2008, was challenged by Bill Konopnicki. Party leadership wanted Allen out and Konopnicki in but the voters saw things differently. After her two-year term, Allen returned to local government as a county supervisor while rancher Chester Crandell ran and won the seat in 2012.

In August, 2014, State Senator Chester Crandell died suddenly in a horseback riding incident. Allen was chosen to replace Crandell on the ballot where she was once again elected to the Arizona State Senate.

But this post is not about Sylvia. It’s about Bob Thorpe and how he has every right to run for the seat without party leadership’s heavy-handedness. And while this blog has been critical of Thorpe’s legislation, the self-appointed LD-6 political kingmakers should back off, stop pressuring Sylvia to stick around and to let the race play out. Bob Thorpe deserves better and a shot at the nomination. We hope he stays in the race.