The Sun City debate in Huntley is now in the books.
Six of the seven candidates in the 14th congressional district debated for nearly two hours.
Ted Gradel did not participate.
The debate was recorded on video, and as soon as the video is released to the public, an open thread will be published here on McHenry County Blog.
But one question stood out on Monday night that all of the candidates failed to show they are ready for Congresswoman Lauren Underwood in a fall campaign, and one of the seven candidates will be the nominee in two weeks.
The question was on prescription drug prices and was 3-part paraphrased below:
- Do you favor legislation to import prescription drugs
- Do you favor legislation that will keep prescription drug prices capped at prices foreign countries pay?
- Do you have any other solutions you favor?
The opportunity missed, to varying degrees by all of the candidates, was to successfully defend President Trump, tout his leadership and record on the important issue of prescription drugs and expose the fallacy of the Democrats and their H.R. 3, “Lower Prescription Drug Prices Now Act” that passed the House on a partisan vote in December.
Brief refresher, H.R. 3 is the House Democrats’ cornerstone legislation to combat the high price of prescription drugs. While an 8-part plan, the key component is the following, as taken from the bill summary on congress.gov:
TITLE I–LOWERING PRICES THROUGH FAIR DRUG PRICE NEGOTIATION
The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to negotiate prices for certain drugs. (Under current law, HHS may not negotiate the prices of covered drugs under the Medicare prescription drug benefit.)
Specifically, HHS must negotiate maximum prices for
(1) insulin products;
(2) with respect to FY2023, at least 25 single-source, brand-name drugs that do not have generic competition and that are among either the 125 drugs that account for the greatest national spending or the 125 drugs that account for the greatest spending under the Medicare prescription drug benefit and Medicare Advantage (MA);
(3) beginning in FY2024, at least 50 such single-source, brand-name drugs; and (4) newly approved single-source, brand-name drugs that meet or exceed a specified price threshold and that HHS determines are likely to meet the spending criteria. The negotiated prices must be offered under Medicare and MA and may also be offered under private health insurance unless the insurer opts out.
The negotiated maximum price may not exceed (1) 120% of the average price in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom; or (2) if such information is not available, 85% of the U.S. average manufacturer price.
Drug manufacturers that fail to comply with the bill’s negotiation requirements are subject to civil and tax penalties.Source: Congress.gov, bill summary of Title I of H.R. 3
The second bulletpoint in the question from last night’s forum was an indirect references to H.R. 3, but judging by the candidates’ responses, no one caught it.
Let’s remember what President Trump said at the State of the Union (SOTU) concerning prescription drugs, which none of the candidates brought up in their responses:
Leave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s smirking and mouthing aside, but no one at the debate brought up what the House Democrats, including Underwood, thought about the President’s work with Senator Chuck Grassley (R, IA), but chanted “H R 3” while waving three fingers in the air.
Senator Grassley is the sponsor of S. 2543, which is the Republican alternative to H.R. 3, and does not include the controversial “negotiation” component, which is really government price controls.
The strategy on prescription drug prices in 2020 is for the Senate to pass S. 2543, and the House-Senate Conference Committee will resolve differencess in the competing legislation.
While President Trump did not mention prescription drug reimportation at the SOTU, his administration has done the following on reimportation and the cost of insulin:
- President and HHS Secretary Azar announce reimportation plan in late 2019
- In late 2018, the FDA announced redefining insulin from a “drug” to a “biologic”
With these key facts’ links, which were published here on McHenry County Blog late last year, reviewing each candidate’s response is next. While it is recognized the candidates only had 1 minute, 15 seconds to respond to the question, they could have and should have done better than what they did.
With all the background information, let’s see what the candidates did say in the order they said it:
- Jim Oberweis, supports legislation for reimportation, though none is needed given the President’s announcement in December. Brought up how he campaigned on this issue back in 2004.
- Anthony Catella, expanded the topic to include health insurance, and asked if pharmaceuticals value “health vs. wealth”
- Jerry Evans, stayed on the health insurance track Catella diverted to, said he would change FDA approval process to expedite new meds to market. Evans has the most detailed policy position on prescription drugs, but did not use it on the prescription drugs question
- Catalina Lauf, agreed with Evans about too much regulation of prescription drugs, mentioned wanting to incentive to pharmaceutical companies to keep prices down
- James Marter, stayed on the health insurance track Catella and Evans talked, and did not answer any of the questions specifically in reference to prescription drug prices
- Sue Rezin, discussed the “gag order” about pharmacists cannot voluntarily share with consumers coupons/savings with customers, and said she’s currently working with AARP to get more generics to market. The Daily Herald report of the debate pointed out the “gag order” rules were eliminated by President Trump.
When the video of Monday’s debate is published, viewers can judge for themselves how the candidates did on this question.
But as published on McHenry County Blog late last year, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) did state healthcare and prescription drugs prices will be the main Democratic initiatives to protect vulnerable freshman Democrats like Lauren Underwood on their impeachment votes.
Given how all of the candidates “whiffed” on this important question tonight in light of President Trump’s successes and the overreaching Democratic legislation H.R. 3, whichever Republican wins the nomination in two weeks will really need to prepare themselves for the fall campaign against Underwood, who will emphasize her “as a nurse” experience to help patients up until the November 3 election.
External link to Daily Herald coverage of Monday’s debate: