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Weekly Column: We Must Focus On Shared Heath Care Goals

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, I have worked with colleagues on a number of bipartisan health care solutions, ranging from mental health improvements to comprehensive telehealth coverage for seniors and working families.  These solutions were also fiscally responsible and reduced the deficit by billions of dollars.  Bringing Idaho commonsense to Congress, we can advance additional reforms that improve health care access, affordability and choice for all Americans if my congressional colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the Biden Administration focus on the policies we all support.   

Long-term, sustainable telehealth access; Medicare coverage for innovative technologies; and provider payment stabilization—to name just a few examples—reflect critical areas of common interest for members across the political spectrum.  The reforms we developed last year should provide a strong foundation for bipartisan efforts moving forward. 

Unfortunately, many of the proposals in the President’s budget run counter to these types of initiatives.  I am concerned with the focus on partisan policies that risk harming health care access and affordability, for both current and future patients.  This includes:

Government-run Drug Pricing: The budget’s central proposal would dramatically expand the size and scope of the bureaucratic, government-run drug price-setting program enacted under last year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).  Prior to that law’s passage, my Republican colleagues and I warned repeatedly that imposing sweeping price controls would prove disastrous for patients, biomedical research and development, and domestic manufacturing jobs.  Many of our fears have already come to pass.  There are better ways to modernize and enhance federal prescription drug programs, and I am currently working on bipartisan legislation with my Finance Committee counterparts to responsibly reduce drug costs for patients and taxpayers.

Medical Innovation: We have also raised concerns with maintaining life-saving research and development, as a University of Chicago study estimated the IRA would result in 135 fewer new drug approvals in the next two decades.  That figure would inevitably skyrocket under the budget’s proposed expansion.  Already, numerous manufacturers have signaled plans to table certain projects in light of the uncertainty created by the IRA.

Drug Shortages: In recent months, we have also seen a rash of drug shortages, which even leading U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials have attributed to pricing dynamics.  Doubling down on the IRA’s price controls would exacerbate the law’s most harmful consequences.  Idahoans deserve better and more affordable access to prescription drugs, and we can find bipartisan, results-oriented solutions this year to advance that goal.  Government price mandates, however, are a step in the wrong direction.

Medicare Insolvency: I also have profound concerns with the budget’s bold claims of averting the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund’s looming insolvency, largely through massive tax hikes and budget gimmicks.  This unbalanced approach does nothing to address Medicare’s cost drivers.  It would also punish the small business job creators and entrepreneurs who drive our economy.   

Straining Medicaid: Unfortunately, the budget takes a similarly shortsighted approach to Medicaid, reviving past rejected policies, including hundreds of billions in new spending, tied to burdensome conditions and efforts to circumvent state leaders.  The federal government should focus on supporting states as they work to return Medicaid to post-pandemic normalcy, rather than imposing new top-down mandates.

Instead of turning to one-size-fits-all solutions, we should look to proven models for federal programs, such as Medicare Advantage.  With sky-high patient satisfaction rates, Medicare Advantage shows consumer choice and market forces can produce more benefits and better outcomes.  As we move forward, we must focus on our many shared goals, from cost-cutting competition to sustainable telehealth access, rather than on partisan priorities, to improve Idahoans’ access to quality and affordable health care.


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