Thu, Jan. 23

Letter: It’s the GOP that has prevented government from negotiating lower drug prices


There was a letter in the January 17, 2017, issue of this newspaper that expressed the opinion that Obamacare is collapsing and was designed to fail. The writer stated that the Republicans have had for several years a couple of good plans to reform healthcare. The writer neglected to mention that many of these Republican ideas were made part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This was reported in a review of Obamacare by the Christian Science Monitor in 2013. Here’s some of the information reported by the Monitor:

For decades, Democrats have wanted a healthcare plan that was part of Social Security and Medicare. Republicans, being opposed to both of these programs, countered Democrats with plans based on private insurance combined with subsidies to low-income individuals/families as far back as 1974 when Pres. Nixon proposed a plan where all employers except the smallest would provide insurance or pay a penalty, and Medicare would be expanded along with subsidies to low-income & small employers.

The individual mandate that receives a lot of criticism from the GOP was also a Republican idea. The Democrats took it from a 1989 proposal by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and supported later by Newt Gingrich when he was Speaker of the House in 1995 along with other leading Republicans, such as Senators Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley. Further, an individual mandate was part of the healthcare plan passed by Massachusetts when Romney was governor there. The mandate, according to Romney, was “essential for bringing healthcare costs down.”

Lastly, in 1993, Republican Sen. John Chaffee of RI, introduced a healthcare bill supported by the GOP leadership that included many ideas that the Democrats put in Obamacare: the individual mandate, standardized benefits, vouchers to subsidize the cost of insurance low-income, and a ban on denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Contrary to the letter writer, one of the objectives of Obamacare was slowing down the rising cost of healthcare. Besides the mandate provision, the ACA includes provisions for states and healthcare providers to experiment with ways to lower costs.

The GOP, though, seems disinterested in the goal of lowering costs because if they were truly interested in mitigating rising costs, they would reverse the provision in the Medicare Part D Plan (for prescription drugs) they passed in 2003 that bans the government from negotiating with the drug companies for lower drug prices.

When the critics complain that “Obamacare was without any attempt to mitigate the problems that were driving up the costs of healthcare,” readers should keep in mind the essential purpose of the individual mandate, and that it’s the Republicans who prevented the government from negotiating for lower drug prices.

Maybe the difficulty that the Republicans are having with their repeal and replace is that since the ACA includes so many of their reform plans they can’t come up with a better plan that isn’t a step closer toward a single payer system.

Joe Stack


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