Congress should stop lining the pockets of drug corporations and their CEOs

Congress should stop lining the pockets of drug corporations and their CEOs

Who is the Republican Congress helping? Ian Read, the Pfizer CEO who raked in compensation of $17.3 million last year, or Ann Serafin, a Michigan woman living with multiple sclerosis who counts on Medicare for her survival?

The GOP-led House and Senate showed that they’re solidly on the side of Read and other billionaires.

In a 227-205 vote in the House, and a 51-49 vote in the Senate, Republicans in Congress passed legislation showering tax breaks on corporations and the rich — all to be paid for with huge cuts for health care and other necessities. Thirteen Republican representatives voted no in the House, and one voted no in the Senate. The rest stood with the big-money donors.


The cruelty is staggering. Congress plans to slash Medicare by almost $500 billion and Medicaid and other health programs by at least $1.3 trillion to cover the cost of these tax breaks for drug corporations, their CEOs, and other mega-rich individuals like Pfizer’s Read.

That’s going to devastate people like Serafin, who has lived with multiple Sclerosis for more than two and a half decades and needs Medicare and her secondary insurance to cover her medical bills — including her medications. Without Medicare, she says, she and her husband would go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, look at the price-gouging these drug corporations engage in to amass exorbitant profits.

A few years after her diagnosis, Serafin says she began using a medication priced at $8,000 year — a price the manufacturer later raised to $84,000. After ten years, she switched prescriptions, to one priced by its manufacturer at $75,000 a year.

The drug corporations are getting away with murder, using a profit-maximizing business model that “recognizes that most people will not be able to afford the drug.”

The price-gouging and profiteering are a matter of life and death for people like Serafin. Without Medicare, Serafin wouldn’t stand a chance.

Of course, even people with good insurance struggle with the price of medications, including a large share of seniors enrolled in Medicare.

Shouldn’t Congress put their interests first?

Instead, GOP leaders in D.C. are moving a tax plan that throws giveaways at drug corporations like Pfizer, which raised the prices of 91 drugs by an average of 20 percent this year.

Pfizer stands to reap more than $24 billion in tax breaks on profits the corporation hoards in offshore tax havens. Just five drug corporations will reap a combined benefit of $42.7 billion – a small part of the wealth transfer the Republican tax plan perpetrates on working-class and middle-class people.

While Republican leaders focused on pushing through their atrocious tax plan, they missed the deadline to renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers nine million children.

After missing this deadline, the House passed a bill that funds CHIP with one hand while taking away health care with the other, kicking people off coverage for a late payment, cutting funds for local public health departments, and more. No bill is moving in the Senate — and CHIP remains in limbo.

Instead of cutting Medicaid and Medicare, and instead of pitting children’s coverage against public health, Congress should stop lining the pockets of drug corporations and their CEOs.

We can change the rules to help people instead of hurting them. We can direct Medicare to negotiate lower prices with drug corporations. We can shorten drug corporations’ monopolies on lifesaving medications and increase the availability of lower-priced generics.

These are solutions that people want, with more than 90 percent of the public supporting price negotiation with drug corporations.

That’s a lot more than the 25 percent that support the GOP tax plan — no surprise, since 61 percent of voters think the plan will benefit the rich over others. The tax plan is even less popular than the bank bailout of 2008.

On Election Day this year, voters sent the clear message that we want more and better health care, not less. We want more fairness and equality, not less. We want our elected to side with Ann Serafin — and us — over big corporations and their CEOs. And across the country, people are taking to the streets, to social media, and contacting their elected officials to show them that they oppose these massive tax giveaways.

Republican leaders ignore that message at their own peril.

LeeAnn Hall is co-director of People’s Action.