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.

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.”

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/

Vote NO Against Bob Thorpe’s Amendment to HB2269

Rep Bob Thorpe
Rep Bob Thorpe

Arizona State Representative Bob Thorpe has snuck in a bill that would limit who could serve in the Arizona Legislature. The Flagstaff Republican used a strike everything maneuver to scrap a bill that would have provided funding for DPS officers who live in remote areas.

Now the strike everything amendment, HB2269, will impose serious limitations on who can serve in the Arizona Legislature based on “physical domicile residency.”

Thorpe’s “striker” bill states that anyone seeking to serve in the Arizona Legislature must physically be domiciled in the jurisdiction for 75% of the year preceding the filing date to seek the office. In other words, 274 days before a candidate files for the legislature, he/she must be physically living in their address within the district.

This is bad public policy and anyone who holds a decent understanding of constitutional law knows physical domicile requirements are absurd and won’t hold up in court.

Imagine a teacher from Prescott who returns home to Legislative District 1 from an overseas mission trip where she taught English for a year and was able to vote as an overseas registered Prescott voter. Although she has been registered to vote for three plus years and meets the residency requirements to serve, Thorpe’s law would automatically disqualified her to serve in the Legislature.

This bad public policy would disqualify many good and qualified individuals. Here is a brief list of who could be affected:

  • Missionaries
  • Members of the military
  • International NGO Aid workers
  • Airline workers
  • Maritime workers
  • Long haul truckers
  • Border Patrol employees
  • Overseas contractors
  • Wildland Firefighters
  • Exchange students
  • Business travelers
  • Individuals who take extended vacations

The list goes on…

Several years ago, my friend Jonathan Paton ran for the legislature in southern Arizona’s LD-30. Jonathan had also volunteered for the Army Reserves in 1999. In 2006, Uncle Sam finally came calling activating 2nd Lt. Paton for duty to Iraq. He left in August for six months but still won re-election and returned to the Legislature in February, 2007. Leading up to his activation, Jonathan had to prepare and train and that took him outside of his district. The same is the case for many military reservists who balance serving in the military against serving in the legislature.

Last week, Thorpe’s amendment to HB2269 received a do pass recommendation from the Senate Appropriations Committee with a 6-3 vote. Unfortunately, the bill advanced and is scheduled for further action and more votes in the House and Senate.

There is still time to contact your state senator and representatives and tell them to vote against Thorpe’s amendment to HB2269. The legislation is bad policy and it disenfranchises and disqualifies highly qualified people from seeking a seat in the Arizona Legislature.

Call your legislators today and tell them vote NO on Thorpe’s striker amendment to HB2269.

Babies deserve every chance at life!

Stop the shameful repeal of their protection!

The time to stop the latest move by pro-abortion advocates is today. Last week, 17 members of the Arizona House introduced HB 2696. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday morning.  HB 2696 would repeal lifesaving measures for babies born alive during an abortion attempt, a law that has been on the books for 44 years.

Pro-life lawmakers learned two years ago of real life situations where babies born alive during attempted abortions were left to suffer and die. Legislators took action to strengthen the 1975 law, requiring updated reporting and equipment standards.

Now, some Arizona lawmakers want to do away with the entire law dating back 44 years. This would free abortion providers from their obligation to use all available means and medical skill to save the life of a baby born alive during an abortion attempt.

Please stand with us in protecting babies who survive abortions.

We’ve made it easy for you to contact your legislator and affirm that every baby born alive deserves every chance at life.

Your Representatives will soon have to make a decision on HB 2696!

We need your help! Click here to contact your lawmaker today to voice your opposition to this shameful repeal.

Action Needed:

  1. Click here to contact your two state representatives today. Ask them to oppose the HB 2696 in order to protect women and their babies.
  2. Forward this email to a friend and invite them to also contact their lawmakers.
  3. Pray! Pray that state legislators stop the ratification of the ERA.

Paul Boyer: Tax reform will help Ariz. small businesses, add jobs

Paul BoyerBy Paul Boyer

2018 is an exciting year for Arizona small businesses, which will be able to take advantage of a new 20 percent tax deduction associated with the recently passed federal tax legislation. These savings will not only benefit state small businesses, but employees, job seekers, and communities as well.

Arizona runs on small business. Our state is home to over 500,000 small businesses (defined by the Small Business Administration as employing 500 or fewer), helping employ nearly one million people. And these numbers are not unique to Arizona. Across the country, small businesses account for over 99 percent of all businesses and a net two-thirds of all new private sector jobs.

But despite the invaluable contribution small businesses had on the economy, for far too long, the structure of the old tax system actively worked against growth, with marginal federal rates reaching 40 percent. This over-taxation put small businesses at an inherent disadvantage.

Under the new tax law, a 20 percent deduction is established for all small business income less than $315,000, and non-professional service business income above that threshold. Roughly 95 percent of small businesses earn less than $315,000, meaning the overwhelming majority will benefit from the full 20 percent deduction.

Consider, for example, how this deduction would help an average Arizona small business earning $200,000 a year. This 20 percent deduction would protect $40,000 from federal taxation, freeing up much-needed resources to create jobs and raise wages. I am already hearing from dozens of businesses around the state about their plans to raise wages, hire employees, and expand with their tax savings.

This excess capital in the private economy will fuel economic growth. Contrary to popular belief, business owners will not simply pocket their tax savings. “They will follow the lead of their big business counterparts, hundreds of which, including AT&T, Comcast, and PNC Bank have used their tax savings to give workers bonuses or raise their wages, creating wealthier and more vibrant communities that touch nearly everyone.

We are even seeing specific examples of these savings here in our home state. Arizona’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service Co, announced its intention to reduce consumer bills, citing the lower corporate tax rate as the driving force behind the decision. These collective cuts could reach nearly $120 million, impacting over 25 million customers.

Arizona Public Service is giving the entirety of their tax cut back to customers. For families on a fixed income, these savings are crucial. They are able to live with a stronger sense of financial security thanks to the recent tax bill.

During my time in the Arizona State Legislature, I’ve encountered businesses longing to share their passions with the world. I witnessed humble business ventures transform into leaders of the Arizona business community. From my experience, a tax cut, like the one recently signed into law, would have done wonders in helping get these businesses off the ground. Now new businesses will finally get the relief they’ve needed for so long.

Tax cuts will give small businesses a lot to look forward to this year, meanwhile all Arizonans will reap the benefits.

Republican Paul Boyer, a high-school literature teacher, is chairman of the Arizona House Education Committee and represents Legislative District 20, based in Phoenix and Glendale. Email him at pboyer@azleg.gov

Rep. Andy Biggs: When will we act like the Republicans our constituents expect us to be?

Andy BiggsThe budget caps deal produced by Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer is a fiscal disaster parading as a military support bill. They argue that we need to fully fund the military. I agree. That’s why we sent a bill to the Senate earlier this week that fully funded the military – without adding more than $500 billion to our deficit over the next 18 months, as their plan does.

Further, the House fully funded the military in the budget bills sent to the Senate almost six months ago. The Senate has taken no action on those bills, but keeps forcing short-term spending bills, which even Senator Lindsey Graham agrees, is extremely harmful to our military.

This bad deal is an unconditional surrender on Republican principles and our platform.

If Congress approves the spending package, federal spending will grow by more than 10 percent. As a part of the deal, our nation’s debt limit will be suspended. This means that Congress will spend as much as it can borrow – without limits. Plan on even more national debt ahead.

If we are going to spend more than the credit limits, not to mention more than we bring in on the revenue side each month, we should be enacting serious spending cuts. Spending reductions should not be treated as an afterthought on a massive spending package.

After caving in on spending, the bill actually funds our troops for only another six weeks, until we are forced to consider our sixth spending bill of the fiscal year just a few weeks from now. This is absurd – and irresponsible.

Congress’s pattern of relying on short-term spending bills – on average, more than five times a year for the last 20 years – has brought on a plethora of problems. Our military is subjected to uncertainty in planning and execution of its missions. Our agencies incur the waste of preparing for government shutdowns multiple times each year. The dissipation incurred by failure of the Senate to pass the appropriations bills has also heaped an enormous national debt on this and future generations.

This is nothing short of self-immolation through legislative malfeasance. We are putting our grandchildren in an awful bind. If we cannot pass a budget and reduce the size of government now, we must wonder what kind of America they will see when they grow up. Will it be a thriving, free nation where they can fulfill their greatest aspirations, or will it be a broken and bankrupt country?

Almost six months ago, the House passed twelve appropriations bills and sent them over to the Senate. The Senate has had an opportunity for months to consider these bills and give them an up-or-down vote through regular order. This could have solved our problems. Yet, the other chamber has refused to perform its constitutional responsibility, threatening the financial stability of our military personnel.

Our troops are suffering now due to our lack of courage to pass a financially responsible, long-term budget, and our grandchildren will suffer later due to our propensity to kick the can down the road.

When will we act like the Republicans our constituents expect us to be? When will we cut spending, balance the budget, and eliminate our national debt? The time should be now, but sadly, we are too set in our free-spending, big government ways to change.

I strongly oppose this deal. We must drain the swamp and decrease the size of government. I implore my colleagues to vote against this legislation.

TJ Shope, Frank Pratt Named 2017 Legislative Champions by League of Arizona Cities and Towns

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Speaker Pro Tempore T.J. Shope (R-8) and Senator Frank Pratt (R-8) last week were named 2017 Legislative Champions by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns.

The Legislative Champions award is given to legislators to honor their outstanding public service and dedication to local governance.

“I am honored to be named a 2017 Legislative Champion by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Shope. “Our work together ensures that communities across the state continue to grow into better places to live, work, and play.

“I am thrilled to be honored by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns,” said Senator Pratt. “Their dedication to support city and local leadership at the legislature is an asset to our state.

The League of Arizona Cities and Towns is a membership-based organization comprised of municipalities throughout Arizona and provides a bridge from local cities and towns to the state legislature.

Shope Pratt

TJ Shope & Frank Pratt

Is Illegal Immigration the Fault of President Donald Trump?

by  Sheila K Muehling

Over my lifetime there have always been people entering this country illegally. As a small-town Midwestern kid, I was never affected by anyone coming in and working or living in my hometown. My father was a local contractor and a union member. His men were hired from the union hall and as far as I knew, they were just regular American workers.

Immigrant WorkersOver my lifetime there have always been people entering this country illegally. As a small-town Midwestern kid, I was never affected by anyone coming in and working or living in my hometown. My father was a local contractor and a union member. His men were hired from the union hall and as far as I knew, they were just regular American workers.

As a young adult living in Chicago I still was not affected by illegal immigrants. We had large Polish communities, Hispanic communities, Little Italy, the Chinese community and most of the Southside of Chicago was the Black community. I hired men and women who lived all over the city and unless they did a poor job, they worked and got paid along with everyone else. If they were a payroll employee, they never received cash and they always paid their taxes.

When President Reagan passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,   my support was with the President.  As a person who ran a business in the construction industry I knew many of my sub-contractors hired workers who were illegal. Because they were not my employees I didn’t worry about it.  Once the law passed I was happy to share the information with anyone who was not legal and help them to complete the paperwork to become citizens. I made a big deal of the new law and to my surprise some of my own employees secretly took advantage of the IRCA. Only after they became citizens and obtained a social security number of their own did I realize how many were illegal and using a false or stolen social security card.

After the law was passed the problem was that many throughout the country did not take the opportunity to become citizens.  Thousands stayed in the shadow from fear of the government but more importantly, many didn’t come forward because they didn’t want to pay taxes.  The fact was most of the sub-contractors I hired used illegals as cheaper labor. Not because they paid them lower hourly pay, but because they didn’t have to match the Medicare and Social Security taxes, and they didn’t have to pay unemployment or union dues. When the law passed many of those companies made the effort to get all of their people to come forward but I remember that many who would work on my jobs suddenly disappeared.

After the IRCA the government promised to fix the border issues but we all know that did not happen. People continued to hire illegal immigrants. Women loved having them clean their houses and keep their yards manicured. Many became nannies and many worked in eldercare. The farmers wanted them to pick the crops, the builders wanted them to clean up job sites and haul materials. My experience was most Americans hired Hispanic workers because they are hardworking and respectful not because they were cheap. I knew people who considered their domestic help part of the family.  But no matter how much Americans loved the illegals they were in the long run still illegal and the problem became bigger and bigger. Sooner or later it had to break.

I am a strong supporter of President Trump and I am proud to be standing with him. However, we have to find a way to fix this problem and calm the country down. Many of the protesters in Charlottesville, Boston and Phoenix were not there because of the Hispanic population they were there because they are of the mind that Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist. I would also guess that better than 50% were there because Hillary Clinton lost. If 10% of those protesters ever spent one minute working with our state social services that try to help children and families, they would understand the problem is not this President. The problem lies with the previous administrations dating all the way back to President Reagan who never did anything to improve and promote the current immigration laws and that includes Barack Obama.

Instead of promoting the likes of Antifa and Black Lives Matter, stand with people like me who are demanding the government address the system of legal immigration now.  Let’s hold Democrats and Republicans alike to their promises during campaigns to reform the system. Let’s be committed enough to vote out the politicians who use excuses for doing nothing.  Americans should stand together on this issue.