Archives for March 2020

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.