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January 6, 2017

How Democrats Plan To Sidetrack The Effort To Repeal And Replace Obamacare


Democrats have a plan to distract Republicans from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. You might call it Democrats on drugs.

They know it’s unlikely they can procedurally stop the repeal and replace effort, but Democrats may be able to sidetrack Republicans by demanding that they include extraneous provisions that divide the party thereby making it more difficult, if not impossible, to pass repeal and replace legislation.

On Dec. 20, Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Al Franken (D-MN) sent a letter, co-signed by 17 other Democratic and independent senators, to President-elect Donald Trump outlining several steps they claim will control the price of prescription drugs.

It’s the usual grab bag of issues they have been demanding for years: let the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services “negotiate”—read: dictate—drug prices; impose price controls; allow government bureaucrats to determine what it costs to develop a new drug; and open the door to importing drugs from foreign countries.

They didn’t even include those provisions in Obamacare. And it wasn’t because they would lose Republican votes, since no Republicans voted for the law.

By now Democrats surely know prescription drug importation is a failed policy. In the mid-2000s seven states and two cities created some type of importation program. But they all shut down within a few years because of cost and lack of consumer interest.

And then there’s Maine. On Thursday, Jan. 5, a federal judge overturned Maine’s 2013 law allowing Mainers to buy prescription drugs by mail from other countries—because federal law trumps state law and federal law strictly limits importation.

Plus importation is unsafe. Counterfeiting prescription drugs is a huge and growing business. If importation becomes the law of the land, that would send a message to U.S. patients that every prescription drug website with a Canadian-flag icon on it can be trusted. Counterfeiting would explode.

In contrast to the failed drug importation schemes, Democrats know that the Part D prescription drug benefit, passed in 2003 with bipartisan support, has worked. The Congressional Budget Office reported in 2014, “A combination of broader trends in the prescription drug market and lower-than-expected enrollment in Part D has contributed to much lower spending for the program—about 50 percent lower in 2013—than CBO projected when the MMA [Medicare Modernization Act] became law in 2003.”

When was the last time a major federal program came in under budget?

But Democrats, who swore repeatedly that Obamacare would lower health insurance premiums while maintaining your right to keep your policy and your physician, now tell us they can negotiate a better deal on prescription drugs.

So Democrats want Republicans to embrace a failed policy, importation, and fundamentally change a successful one, Part D.

Here’s the point: Democrats recognize their inability to stop Obamacare repeal if Republicans are united. And so their strategy is to create disunity by demanding that Republicans pass provisions like importation, drug price negotiations and price controls that Democrats never included when they ran Washington.

Democrats passed Obamacare and it failed. Now Republicans are trying to pass something that will actually lower premiums and improve access to coverage and care. They should ignore Democratic efforts to distract them and stay focused on the issue at hand: repealing and replacing Obamacare.


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