In his first State of the Union, Donald Trump made a point to remind everyone of the high cost of pharmaceuticals in America. It’s a position he hammered away at on the campaign trail. So far, results have varied.
In 2017, the rise in costs for prescription drugs continued. Critics will argue that Trump hasn’t offered a concrete plan. But I would argue that his latest selection for Health and Human Services Secretary is that plan, and it’s a good one.
During the Obama administration, we had career politicians running the department. For the first five years, it was Kathleen Sebelius followed by Sylvia Mathews Burwell.
Guess what? During that time drug costs soared. Why shouldn’t they? Most Democrats are more concerned with finding a way to get the government to pay for drugs than driving the costs down.
Instead of creating a better healthcare system for us, we got scandals. Remember when the Obamacare exchange site wouldn’t work? It was that time when the state of Kentucky enrolled more people than the federal government. So that is what career politicians get you, a lot of blusters followed by disappointment.
The most obvious critique of Trump’s choice, Alex Azar, is that he is a former drug executive. The left will argue, “He’s just trying to make money for his rich buddies!” (Have you ever met a wealthy person that wants to make their friend richer than them? It doesn’t happen.)
You know what else a former drug exec knows? They know what causes costs to rise and how to incentivize to bring them down. If he follows this point of view, it will be like having a spy on our side.
Why Azar is the right man for the job
First of all, he has already worked in this department. He is the former Deputy Secretary for HHS under George W. Bush. So, he is not a complete outsider.
But what is his plan?
If you don’t know already, politics doesn’t allow you to have and cleanly implement a concrete plan. Anything Azar has said about bringing costs down is just in theory. Trust me; this isn’t a Republican-only strategy. Barack Obama didn’t even have a health care plan until he got roasted in the Las Vegas debates by Hillary Clinton in 2008. Even then, he just borrowed Mitt Romney’s plan.
What you begin with is a basis: a view of what you want to accomplish. It will be drastically twisted and changed by the time it reaches the president’s desk. However, with the right man in charge, it can be possible.
During his confirmation hearings, we got a view into how we will attack big Pharma. Azar offered up some genuinely good, albeit party-line ideas. The obvious one he presented was making more generic drugs available.
That’s a perfectly conservative and logical idea. Cheaper options force drug makers to be competitive.
Then he pushed an idea not so Republican, but one that could create a tectonic shift in costs: price negotiation. Azar said he would pursue negotiations with drug companies a la Medicare’s negotiation techniques. It’s a perfectly usable rubric to bring the cost of drugs down.
However, Azar is a smart man. He isn’t trying to sell a bill of goods. In his hearing, he told senators that no one solution will work. The main goal should be to incentivize so that drug companies will, of their own free will, bring down costs.
Azar is the man to do the job because he has played both sides of the transaction. He’s seen government work with private companies and he’s run the private drug companies on the other end.
With Azar at the helm, there may actually be a shot at inflicting some sort of damage on high drug costs. That will be a big deal when you head to the pharmacy. If Azar is successful, it could be a new day for one of the more bloated sectors of healthcare.
If he isn’t, it’s the same story we’ve heard for years. The same story even Obama couldn’t rewrite with the biggest update to the health system in decades.
If anyone is going to lead the counter-attack to Big Pharma, why shouldn’t it be one of their own? Who would know the weaknesses better?
Article last modified on March 5, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: A Big-Pharma CEO Will Lower Your Prescription Drug Costs - AMP.
Article last modified on March 5, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC .