TLDR: We can lower the cost of healthcare and improve outcomes by breaking up healthcare monopolies and funding preventative measures.
Millions of America are one medical incident away from financial ruin. Millions more struggle between buying groceries, keeping the lights, or affording their medication. Instead of improving affordable healthcare access, our government has wasted billions on a failed war on drugs. This war has devastated communities across North and South America. Now is the time to put our money to work, to help people not to hurt them. I believe we can use these funds for research and allow responsible adults to use marijuana, expanding the tax basis.
Complicating our healthcare system further is our close government ties to Big Pharma. The United States government has handed a virtual monopoly to a handful of corporations that have addicted millions of Americans to opiates and prescription pain-killers. Despite a high human and economic cost, our legal representatives, seem unable to do anything about it. The idea of expanding Medicare to everyone is faulty for two reasons. First, it likely would not incentive Big Pharma to break up, leaving taxpayers fitting the bill for expensive medicine. Second, currently, 10% of Medicare’s budget goes to Fraud. Should this program get expanded, this problem will only worsen. Instead, these are concrete steps to lower cost and improve outcomes:
· Legalize Marijuana and Re-Classify Psychedelics
Richard Nixon’s administration enacted “tough” drug standards to criminalize counter-cultural movements and to break up social movements in African American communities working to enact change. We need to correct this injustice and have our drug designations based on facts, not politicians wanting to score political points.
· Fund Community Health
Preventive medicine is cheaper and more effective than reactive medicine that our system currently employs. I would move to fund community health initiatives in barbershops, beauty salons, places of worship, and community centers. We could catch critical illnesses earlier and save money treating conditions while they are more easily manageable.
· Lower Drug Prices
US drug prices are the highest among the 19 most developed countries. The pharma industry wants us to believe that we must pay higher rates to have the most cutting edge treatment and to drive innovation. However, many research studies have shown that in recent decades, the average number of drugs approved each year has been on the decline, innovation has slackened, and nearly half of the drugs approved by the FDA between 2005 and 2011 lacked any tangible benefits.
· End Big Pharma Monopolies
We can effectively lower the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs through healthy competition and open markets. The price of penicillin was driven down mainly through competition and anti-monopoly practices up until the 1960s. Then the US government’s priorities have shifted to encouraging monopolization in the pharmaceutical industry. Since 1995, 60 of the largest pharmaceutical companies have merged into just 10. As a result, drug prices soared. Instead of paying for expensive medications, the government should foster competition, enforce anti-trust policies, and force lower prices organically.
· End Public Subsidies for Corporate Profits and Penalize Share Buybacks and Dividends
Between 2010 and 2016, the FDA approved 210 new medications. Every single one originated in a government or university-funded research lab. This research costs the US taxpayer ~$33 billion every year. Never ones to miss out on a corporate handout, policymakers have passed legislation that facilitated the transfer of this research into the hands of private partners. 99% of the profits generated by the largest drug companies as a result of this legislation went to industry executives and major shareholders through buybacks and dividends. I believe the government should penalize this behavior and end public subsidies, which would require drug companies to reinvest their profits in research and development.
· Criminal Liability for Opioid Executives
The Opioid and now Heroin crisis has devastated North Texas communities. Big Pharma executives viewed our neighbors as cash cows, who were bled dry by corporate greed. These same companies are more concerned with creating a drug you take for the rest of your life, not one that cures you. Our Justice and Regulatory agencies have enabled this behavior by only requiring these companies to pay small fines. Since Enron, the government fears to go after corporate executives and does not seem to mind the carnage that is left behind. I would call for criminal investigations into corporate executives, who have hidden behind corporate immunity, while knowingly addicting millions of Americans to opioids through predatory marketing tactics.