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Why Is Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Confused?

Posted on | August 23, 2018 | 1 Comment

Mike Magee

The Medical-Industrial Complex in the United States is expert at feigning cross-sector competition while quietly signaling to members that there is plenty of graft and profit in the $4 trillion (20% of GDP) for all. The net output, more evident than it ever was in the days of ’90 era “Harry and Louise” efforts, is a hidden syndicate and a confused Congress and public.

Consider the sham battle currently between Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), health insurers and PhRMA. Their public finger pointing at each other disguises a deep financial conspiracy that is more than skin deep. The goal is to profit while you confuse. And it’s working.

One frustrated health care lobbyist complained this week, “There’s a reluctance to push Congress in one direction or another until we understand where they’re going.” Wake up call: You’ll never understand – that’s the whole idea.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is chair of the Senate Health Committee and is as confused as everyone else wondering aloud whether we need PBMs at all. Answer: NO. Why? PBM’s are the offspring of Merck, CVS, and UnitedHealthcare who decided that their was money to be made, shaving off the top, in data manipulation and supposed cost-containment.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that PBMs have their own lobbying association now – the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association or PCMA. They’ll spend about $6 million this year on confusion campaigns. But the top guys – CVS Health, Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth Group – have ponied up another $6 million themselves individually – all while their parent companies fund PhRMA and the health insurers who they are supposedly opposing. Can you spell “collusion?”

Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar could learn a thing or two from the various Medical-Industrial Complex sectors about the “art of distraction”. They’ve been able over two decades to get Americans to spend twice the amount of all other developed nations on health services while mothers and children die in childbirth at astounding rates, white male survival curves have turned south, and hospitals have become the 4th leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Instead of getting drawn into the faux-battle between PBMs and their hidden parents, or debating how to buy cheaper drugs from Canada, we need to stop with the incremental reform and just get on with a total reboot.

For pharmaceuticals for example, here are three easy steps:

1.  Governmental aggregate purchasing.

2.  Value based evaluation of an essential drug list by independent government experts who are unconflicted.

3.  Annual prices set for all drugs on the list using a system of “reference pricing” as they do in Europe and Canada.

Comments

One Response to “Why Is Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Confused?”

  1. Mike Magee
    August 31st, 2018 @ 12:10 pm

    “It is so convoluted and so complicated,” said Gerard Anderson, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The PBMs have grown in power and profitability over the last 10 years, and are becoming a huge force. The drug companies, they’re the ones that raise prices. It’s definitely a synergistic relationship. We’ve got two bad actors, we don’t have one.”

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