Diary

Socialist Single-Payer Agenda is Behind Attacks on Drug Companies

Why is it that left-wing politicians are always complaining about the high cost of prescription drugs, only to propose that we nationalize drug research and manufacturing?

Perhaps if the media weren’t in the tank they would ask single-payer advocates why they believe folding the drug companies into society’s least efficient institution is likely to cut costs?

That’s asking a lot of the media. First they would have needed to notice that all of the people who claim to be most concerned about the costs of drugs happen to be pushing for single-payer health care. But that, in turn, would require the media to consider that desire for single-payer healthcare does not flow automatically from being an adult human being.

“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it,” wrote Saul Alinski in Rules for Radicals. The left-wing campaign against drug companies has been textbook Alinski, using them as a common enemy to rally against in service of a larger goal.

Public Citizen, the leading agitprop purveyors, are firm single-payer devotees, as are their like-minded peers: Democracy for America, Consumers Union, The Other 98% and MoveOn.org.

In the Senate, there’s none as loud on the issue as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the only (open) socialist in the chamber who has long-backed single-payer. Right behind him is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), another singe payer adherent.

Both Sanders and Warren are members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, which is holding a hearing Tuesday titled “The Cost of Prescription Drugs: How the Drug Delivery System Affects What Patients Pay.” Both are expected to continue their long-running assault on American companies that produce the large majority of the world’s new drugs.

One wonders why the Republican-controlled committee, chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is offering single-payer advocates a high-profile venue to flog a drug company executive. What’s less mysterious is the end game for the liberal senators leading the charge.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), another Democratic committee member: “A single-payer system would be the most effective in terms of reducing administrative costs, and I would be thrilled to support such a system.”

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), another Democratic committee member: “I actually was for a government takeover of medicine. I was for a single-payer plan.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), another Democratic committee member, “held forth at length on the benefits of a single-payer health insurance” in conversation with fellow liberals, according to the Hartford Courant.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) led the charge for the “public option,” Democrats’ best attempt at sneaking in single-payer over time when Obamacare was under consideration, and the Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) backed it as well.

Thus the Democratic members of the Senate HELP Committee nearly unanimously support single payer. Perhaps that’s something worth mentioning in the inevitable one-sided media coverage from the hearing?

Don’t count on it. The media’s typical M.O. is to consider the price of a drug as prima facie unreasonable and evidence of evil behavior by company executives.

Ira Stoll at Reason had a great sendup of a classic example of this in the New York Times, which published the ill-considered screed of a writer who appeared to have decided to write on the subject because he was angry at having to pay several hundred dollars out-of-pocket for a drug.

As Stoll notes, the writer, Charles Duhigg, waited until the 22nd paragraph to note that 90% of people who buy the same medicine pay less than one-sixth the price Duhigg paid, prompting questions less about the price of the drug and more about what kind of crazy insurance plan the Times is providing for its employees.

Further, Stoll notes, either price – the one paid by most people or the higher one paid by Duhigg, is considerably less than the $1,014 per year subscription price of the Times.

“I’m looking forward to the Charles Duhigg column complaining that The New York Times subscription pricing structure ‘flouts the norms of good corporate behavior,’ and calling for investors to replace members of the Times Company board of directors. But I suspect I’ll be waiting a long time for that one,” Stoll writes.

A long time indeed. While we are waiting, perhaps we can decide collectively to consider the overwrought claims about drug prices from a bunch of people who’s idea of efficiency is socialized medicine with a large grain of salt.