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Tuesday, March 15, 2022

OPINION:

As we enter a new year, the American people face a broad range of challenges, from rampant inflation to supply chain disruptions and labor shortages. Against an unnerving backdrop of rising crime, unrest at our borders, and threats to our national security, the Biden administration’s misguided response to the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these concerns. Rather than addressing the issues confronting workers and families, the administration and Democratic leadership continue to pursue reckless tax-and-spend policies that would exacerbate current sources of hardship, including by creating a mandatory government price-setting program for medications that risks undercutting efforts to combat the pandemic and improve economic outcomes. My colleagues should abandon these partisan pursuits and instead work in a bipartisan manner to advance legislative solutions that truly help Idahoans and all Americans.

Under the constitutionally dubious system of bureaucratic drug price controls in the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), Americans would see fewer new treatments and vaccines, greater inflationary pressures, and inferior care quality and access in the years to come. The bill would undermine incentives for biomedical innovation, as unaccountable federal officials would compel manufacturers to partake in a mandatory price-setting program, with non-compliance punished by an impossibly steep penalty of up to 95 percent on gross drug sales across all markets. Private-sector pricing practices would also come under federal control, moving us closer to a government-run health care system. Basic protections, meanwhile, would have no place in the BBBA, as the bill expressly bans judicial and administrative review of essentially every aspect of the new price control regimes.


According to University of Chicago researchers, these policies would slash projected biomedical research and development funding by more than $660 billion in the next two decades, resulting in 135 fewer new drug approvals and a potential loss of more than 331 million life years. As innovators work to produce vaccines and therapies to combat COVID-19, these disincentives for biomedical discovery and development could prove devastating. Moreover, Americans will need to contend with higher launch prices for new medications that do come to market, further straining working families’ finances.

These government drug pricing mandates would also bury small businesses in burdensome bureaucratic demands and institute aggressive payment cuts for frontline health care providers. An American Action Forum analysis found the Biden administration finalized more than $200 billion in new regulatory costs during 2021. The tax-and-spending proposal would double down on this trend, imposing sweeping new government mandates on job creators across the health care system. The resulting cost-cutting measures could accelerate health system consolidation and independent practice closures, with stark access implications for patients.

From lifesaving treatments to provider access, the Build Back Better Act represents a step backward for American health care. As the Chinese Communist Party and other rivals abroad leverage life sciences innovation to seize market dominance and strengthen defense capabilities, our national security and international leadership demand a more responsible path forward.

In that spirit, I have reintroduced my Lower Costs, More Cures Act, a comprehensive set of targeted and consumer-centric policies, virtually all of which enjoy bipartisan support. Consensus-driven solutions like this legislation, which would lower pharmacy-counter costs for crucial drugs like insulin and cap out-of-pocket medication spending for seniors, among dozens of other commonsense reforms, could easily pass with overwhelming majorities in both chambers. Unfortunately, the ongoing pursuit of a budget-breaking tax-and-spending package has made it impossible so far to advance these types of game-changing measures.

Democratic leadership must set aside partisan politics and focus on fiscally responsible policies that enhance health care access, affordability and innovation to improve the lives of Idahoans and all Americans.

• Senator Mike Crapo, Idaho Republican, is the Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee and serves on the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the Budget Committees. He is a lifelong Idahoan and ranks 13th in overall Senate seniority.


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