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Republicans face critical test of integrity on drug price controls
It is easy to oppose bad policy when you are in the minority. Back when ObamaCare was signed into law, Democrats controlled Congress and the White House. Republicans could yell and scream as loud as they wanted to, but there was nothing they could do to stop it. The true test of integrity is when politicians find themselves in the governing majority. This is when they have the chance to drive real change but need the courage to fight for it. The unwillingness of Republicans to fight for bold reforms cost them the House majority in 2018, and they still have not learned their lesson.
New additions to Congress like Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Rick Scott are advocating for socialist style price controls on medicine. It is shocking since they were fierce critics of government involvement in health care just a few short months ago. When Hawley ran for office, he campaigned on a platform of lower drug prices and health care freedom. He penned an editorial column last year calling on Congress to "eliminate the one size fits all dictates from Washington." Now Hawley is endorsing the government takeover of medicine. Why the 180 degree turn here?
When Scott served as the governor of Florida, he was a vocal advocate for the full repeal of ObamaCare. During his tenure, Florida joined a federal lawsuit to strike down the law in its entirety. Now he is also endorsing a government takeover of medicine. What is going on here? It is bizarre to watch Republican legislators fight so hard against ObamaCare, only to then endorse state mandated price controls. Price controls are bad for American consumers, and they will stifle medical innovation. Ultimately, if the United States does not continue innovating, then no one else will.
Sixty percent of pharmaceuticals are developed in the United States. We are leading the world in medical research and innovation. Drug prices are set so manufacturers can recover the costs of inventing these new drugs and bringing them to market. If American drug innovators can no longer afford to invent lifesaving drugs, they simply will not. Price controls will not just prevent new drugs from coming to market, they will also cause shortages of prescriptions already in use. We have seen price controls interfere with supply and demand, causing shortages in other areas like wages and housing. Drug price controls would be more of the same.
If Hawley and Scott have it their way, such government mandated price controls on prescription drugs would cause drug shortages. This would be yet another empty political gesture that sounds nice on a campaign ad, but hurts American families in real life. Lowering prices through the free market will take hard work, but it seems these senators do not want to make the tough critical decisions to deliver for the American people.
Hawley and Scott want the Department of Health and Human Services to control drug prices using an international index. This would determine drug prices through Medicare Part B, including vaccines and cancer medications, based on their costs in other countries. Many of these countries have socialized health care systems with artificial drug prices and long wait times for lifesaving medications. Rising prescription drug prices are a problem, but we must be thoughtful about the solution.
The Department of Health and Human Services has no right to make economic decisions on behalf of the American people. Congress makes laws, and agencies help enforce them, not the other way around. History has proven time and again that price controls and meddling will only make things worse. Let us try something new by letting the free market work. If Republicans want to rekindle the enthusiasm of their voting base heading into 2020, they should reject the big government visions of Hawley and Scott and behave like small government Republicans again.
Adam Brandon is president of the nonprofit organization FreedomWorks.