The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.
As we careen towards an election with a divisive Supreme Court nomination, a raging pandemic and small businesses on their last legs all around us, I keep wondering what Trump has to tout – I got my answer last week: an grandiose and erroneous claim he’s lowered drug prices.
Anyone whose health is tied to a life-saving drug knows this for the immediate falsehood it is. Skyrocketing drug prices are affecting me personally. I have a genetic blood disorder (MYH9) that is similar to hemophilia. One of the medications used to treat MYH9 is Eltrombopag and costs an average of $43,000 per year.
In January of this year I was also diagnosed with cervical cancer and have had one surgery and three biopsies thus far. I thankfully have insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. Before the ACA, I would have been denied coverage because of my pre-existing condition. And even with insurance I have paid $12,000 out of pocket already this year.
Despite politicians’ claims, I’ve only ever seen my prescription prices go up. And that doesn’t just affect my pocket – it affects the thousands of small businesses I work with daily in my role as a Program Manager for a Chamber of Commerce.
Small businesses struggle to provide health insurance for their employees, in no small part because it is so expensive. And it is so expensive because of the uneven playing field to purchase group insurance and rising costs of drug prices. In fact, drug prices rose the fastest among any medical good or service since 2014.
On drug pricing Trump has been all talk and no substance, announcing that insulin is cheap, like water while millions of people are paying over $300 a month per vial. He has continued to let big pharma set prices as high as they want, profiteering at the expense of small businesses and ordinary Americans. In the current climate, these corporations take taxpayer-funded initial research to develop their drugs, then raise prices for what we already paid for.
This isn’t just for COVID, this is for every major life-saving drug. But now, with COVID, big pharma executives get the added bonus of cashing in thanks to stock speculation that boosts share prices every time they get more government funding. Prescription drug corporations have already received nearly $11 billion in taxpayer funding for a vaccine, for instance, making insiders and executives millions on soaring stock without any actual guarantee that we’ll get a safe, affordable vaccine.
A small business that takes customers’ money and doesn’t deliver on the product won’t survive. But the Trump administration is clearly operating by a different set of rules–one that prioritizes the profits of drug corporations over serving public health.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of election gimmicks like drug discount cards and paper thin executive orders that set up demonstration projects which may not even exist if the Affordable Care Act is overturned, President Trump and Congress could take up drug pricing legislation such as H.R. 3, which would enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices and stop drug corporation price-gouging. The bill passed the U.S. House, but President Trump and Senate Republicans declared it “DOA” in the Senate, despite strong bipartisan public support for negotiated drug prices.
Trump’s lack of substantive action on lowering drug prices has made it clear that he doesn’t care about people like me who are struggling to access life-saving prescriptions or about creating a more even playing field for small businesses trying to increase health care access for their employees. It’s bad enough that he hasn’t improved prices, but now he’s taking actions that will actually make things even worse.
Rather than lowering drug prices or focus on passing COVID relief and recovery that would help get the economy back on track, Trump and his allies in the Senate are focused on stacking the Supreme Court before the election so that they can take away our health care afterwards. The Court will hear the latest Trump supported lawsuit to overturn the ACA on November 10th and, with the fresh confirmation of Trump’s latest anti-ACA nominees, is likely to overturn the law that ensures 20 million people like me and protects 135 million more from discrimination against pre-existing conditions.
With COVID–an entirely new preexisting condition– affecting hundreds of thousands after this pandemic and no guaranteed coverage or affordability for the drugs needed to treat it, history will remember that this Administration and Congress wasted the chance to reign in pharma’s monopoly power, opting instead to prioritize their own politics of the future of our nation.
–Klawes is a manager at a local Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Wisconsin Main Street Alliance.