Reporting from Sundance

I am in Sundance, Utah, today attending a meeting of the Health Sector Assembly, so we thought we would use this issue of Health Policy Matters to send you a few of the many op-eds we have written for outlets around the country recently, along with a link to a terrific commentary in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal by Scott Gottlieb and Tom Miller of AEI. They write about actions the states can take to resist the health overhaul legislation and “perform as much radical surgery as possible on the mandated health insurance exchanges until a new Congress working with a different president can do something better.”

And the ruling by federal Judge Roger Vinson of Florida yesterday is hugely important, allowing the 20-state-plus-NFIB challenge to ObamaCare to proceed. Importantly, Judge Vinson wants to hear arguments about the constitutionality of the individual mandate, and he chastised the Justice Department for its Alice in Wonderland shift in calling the mandate a tax after the president and virtually all of the law’s supporters in Congress insisted during the debate that it wasn’t. Much, much more on this later.

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How Much Is Two More Years of Life Worth?

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
The Washington Times, 10/15/10

Heart disease is our nation’s leading cause of death, killing more than 600,000 people last year, but modern medical technologies are helping to save thousands of these lives and will save even more if research can continue. But a number of makers of medical devices are worried that new taxes will starve them of funds for new research and even could put some of them out of business. For example, Richard Packer, chief executive officer of Zoll Medical Corp. — which makes cutting-edge automated external defibrillators — says a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices in the new health overhaul law will increase his company’s tax bill by $7.5 million. It is crucial that government support and not undermine innovation in lifesaving and life-enhancing medicines and technologies. Policies that tax away the money that companies spend on medical research will lower the quality of care for this generation and future generations. And it will cost lives.

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A Strong Dose of Hubris

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
The Oklahoman, 10/09/10

The Food and Drug Administration recently came close to taking away hope for thousands of terminally ill women. But at the last minute, the agency announced it was postponing until December whether to revoke approval of Avastin for advanced-stage breast cancer treatment. The fact that the FDA may cut off patient access to a popular and effective medicine is a sign of things to come. New federal health laws give government dramatically more control over the health sector. When public officials control medical decisions, treatment inevitably becomes centralized, and patients wind up with fewer choices and compromised care.

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The AARP?s Misleading Drug Study

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
The Hill’s Congress Blog, 10/12/10

The AARP is continuing to mislead seniors with another in its series of distorted studies. In the latest example, the seniors’ lobby examined a select group of popular pharmaceuticals and found that prices increased much faster than general inflation last year, rising 8.3 percent. But the study doesn’t present an accurate picture of the American drug market. Some brand-name drugs are increasing in price. Others aren’t. And three of every four drugs dispensed is a generic, but the study ignored those. AARP also doesn’t offer solutions to help lower drug prices. It might start by recommending reform of the expensive, cumbersome, and antiquated system of drug approval that costs more than $1 billion to bring a single new drug to market. And reform of the drug approval process could keep the pipeline of innovative medicines open to speed more life-saving and life-enhancing drugs to seniors.

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Judge Makes Wrong ObamaCare Decision

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 10/08/10

A federal judge in Michigan ruled last week that the health overhaul law is constitutional, dismissing a suit brought by the Thomas More Law Center, which has vowed to appeal. Judge George C. Steeh of Federal District Court in Detroit, who was appointed by former President Clinton, decided the individual mandate is needed to compel Americans to obtain health insurance. Steeh said that without the individual mandate, consumers would have every incentive to wait until they get sick to buy coverage. (But that already is happening in Massachusetts even with the state’s individual mandate, which has stricter enforcement provisions than Obamacare.) This is doubling down on a bad law, saying you need one unconstitutional mandate to protect people from its other adverse consequences. The correct ruling would be that the whole thing should be repealed to avoid both the unconstitutionality and destruction that Obamacare already is leaving in its wake.

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Wreckage of ObamaCare

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
National Review Online: Critical Condition, 10/04/10

The Obama administration is refusing to accept the disastrous dynamics it has set into play with its monstrous health overhaul law. Instead of recognizing the economic reality of what they’ve done, officials are railing at the companies and industries that are responding in perfectly rational ways to the incentive structures they have set up. But the result is an avalanche of bad news for consumers who surely will not “be able to keep the coverage” they have. This is only the beginning as thousands and thousands more pages of regulation will further disrupt virtually every aspect of our health sector.

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How to Reform ObamaCare Starting Now

Scott Gottlieb and Tom Miller, American Enterprise Institute
The Wall Street Journal, 10/14/10

After November, more than 30 Republican governors (many newly elected) will have the opportunity to resist the health overhaul legislation at the state level. They should perform as much radical surgery as possible on the mandated health insurance exchanges until a new Congress working with a different president can do something better. By offering their own market-friendly versions of the exchanges, they will establish an alternative to ObamaCare and its one-size-fits-all health plans. For example, any willing insurers already licensed to operate in a state should be able to offer plans. Once inside the exchange, consumers would be guaranteed the ability to renew their coverage without regard to changes in their health status, so long as they remain continuously insured. Some states, particularly Utah, are moving in this direction with their own version of market-based exchanges before ObamaCare’s regulations can catch up. The Utah Health Exchange is an Internet-based information portal that connects consumers to the information they need to make informed choices. In many cases, it allows them to buy insurance electronically. Several other states are interested in establishing similar plans and daring the Obama administration to stop them. Replacing the command-and-control features of ObamaCare with a plan offering consumers a real marketplace is a change many people can start to believe in. And one Mr. Obama would be imprudent to oppose.

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