For Americans longing to return to normalcy — tackling COVID-19, keeping their private health plans and opening up businesses and schools, what a Biden-Harris administration will do to our health system and innovation matters.
Simply put, the Biden-Sanders-Harris health agenda threatens to quash America’s global-leading biomedical innovation and to reduce consumer choice in health care.
Sen. Kamala Harris — ironically, a member of the Senate Intellectual Property Subcommittee — has displayed disdain for private property rights, particularly in health care. The Joe Biden-Bernie Sanders manifesto aligns with her radical positions. Mr. Biden hasn’t assured otherwise.
While still stumping for the Democratic presidential nomination, Ms. Harris was asked what she’d do to drug companies to lower their prices. She said, “I will snatch their patent so we can take over.”
Let that sink in. She would snatch their private property — the products these research-and-development firms have created through a hard, expensive path where most potential new drugs aren’t sufficiently safe or effective or both.
Ms. Harris would have the government exercise the equivalent of eminent domain on intellectual property. No mention of paying “just compensation” when the government takes away this property.
As disturbing is Joe Biden hasn’t renounced Ms. Harris’s reckless extremism. The Biden-Sanders manifesto states, “Democrats will crack down on anti-competitive efforts to manipulate the patent system or collude on prices.”
The pact promises to “[d]irect the National Academy of Medicine to document cost impact and develop policies to overcome abusive practices such as patent thickets, evergreening, and product hopping.”
But all inventors granted a patent gain a period of exclusivity over their invention. And inventors routinely tinker with their inventions, coming up with improvements and newer, better versions.
That’s the essence of the biopharma business. Invention, improvement, progress.
Otherwise, diabetics in 2020 would be taking 1920s insulin from a cow or pig pancreas. Since the 1980s, genetically engineered human insulin has continually improved diabetics’ insulin production while reducing health risks.
But Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris have gone all in with Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the congressional Medicare for All Caucus. Ms. Harris has cosponsored legislation to butcher our patent and health care systems.
Many of the bills impose government price controls, unleashing the government’s monopsony power to dictate drug prices.
S. 3166, S. 1801, S. 1261, S. 1129, S. 981, S. 470, S. 377, S. 102 and S. 62 — all cosponsored by Ms. Harris — contain this common feature of government-controlled health systems. Those governments hold unfair advantage in “negotiations” with vendors.
Some Harris-backed legislation demands compulsory patent licensing or slashes the period of patent exclusivity — the opposite of an exclusive right. S. 4439, S. 1801, S. 377, S. 366 and S. 102 include these.
Measures such as S. 1801 and S. 97 raise risks for patients through importation schemes. Some, including S. 3163, S. 1801, S. 637 and S. 102, expropriate drug innovators’ earnings. That’s money companies use for R&D and to keep new, better treatments coming.
Mr. Biden’s “moderate” alternative to a government-controlled health system, a government-controlled “public option,” would be “plenty disruptive” to health coverage Americans like.
“In truth, the kind of public option that Biden and [Pete] Buttigieg [advocate] … would guarantee massive disruptions to private coverage,” New York Magazine reported. Mr. Biden’s public option increases premiums by 10 percent, forces private health plans from the market, disrupts patients’ lives, adds a 4.8% tax to people’s paychecks and risks closing 55% of rural hospitals.
Ms. Harris backs “public option” and Medicare “buy-in” legislation, S. 1261, S. 981 and S. 470.
She’s an original cosponsor of the granddaddy of one-size-fits-all, government-controlled health care — Mr. Sanders’ Medicare for All Act, S. 1129.
Ms. Harris’ limousine-liberal legislating will destroy core elements of our innovation-inducing patent system and private-sector consumer options for health coverage. This while four out of five Democratic, swing and Republican voters like their health coverage and 63% favor a prominent role for private health insurance in our health system. Seems like important information for a razor-thin victor who has no coattails.
If Mr. Biden actually prefers improving what we have instead of blowing up our patent and health systems, he must disavow and rein in Ms. Harris’ radicalism, renounce the extremist “Biden-Sanders Unity” manifesto, collar the AOC-Squad-socialist half of his party and reassure Americans from all corners that he won’t govern as a socialist — because that’s the path he’s on.
• James Edwards is executive director of Conservatives for Property Rights (@4PropertyRights) and patent policy adviser to Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund. The views expressed are his own.
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