President Bush is meeting with congressional leaders, White House staffers are working around the clock, and the question everyone is asking is this: What are they deciding about spending proposals for Medicare, prescription drugs, and the uninsured?
The decisions being made now will launch the debate for next year over hugely consequential health care issues. The president told leaders this week that he will put substantially more than last year’s $190 billion into his budget for a drug benefit, and he and aides have said repeatedly that the benefit will be incorporated into other improvements in the Medicare program.
What could be at risk, however, is money for the uninsured. Census Bureau figures come out in late September every year, and if the number continues to march upward, political leaders will come under increasing pressure to take action. The battles will be over providing new free-market tax incentives or taking the all-too-easy path of further expanding old government programs.
Even this week, consequential decisions are being made by the administration about global protection of intellectual property rights. Activists are pressing hard in World Trade Organization talks to further expand authority to pirate drug patents, putting research and development in the pharmaceutical industry at risk.
The activists’ real target is global capitalism, and undermining intellectual property is their strategy. Property rights are a cornerstone of the economy of any developed or developing economy. Leaders must decide if this country will continue to fight for this essential protection in these talks and also in the coming debate in Congress over giving seniors access to cheaper generic drugs.
As Kate O’Beirne writes in her column in National Review this week, “There are over 400 new anti-cancer drugs being researched; scores of others are being studied in the hope of treating Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Which of these does the public want to see canceled for lack of research funds?” she asks.
We will continue to keep you posted through these reports as the health care debate unfolds in the busy year ahead. Our work will always be guided by our first principles: The essential importance of individual freedom and the value of the competitive marketplace in providing choice, quality, and continued innovation.
In the meantime, all of us at the Galen Institute – Liz Lamirand, Joe Moser, Tara Persico, and I – wish you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful holiday season. We will see you in the new year.