Saturday, February 11, 2017


Opponent of Medicaid, Medicare sworn in as Health and Human Services secretary

Opponent of Medicaid, Medicare sworn in as Health and Human Services secretary

By Kate Randall
11 February 2017
Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, was sworn in Friday as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Senate confirmed Donald Trump’s pick for the cabinet post by a 52 to 47 vote early Friday morning along party lines. Price had served in the US House as Representative of Georgia’s 6th District since 2005.
Price, 62, a retired orthopedic surgeon from the Atlanta suburbs, is a staunch opponent of Medicare and Medicaid, programs that insure more than 100 million Americans. As HHS secretary, he will lead Trump’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with as yet to be unveiled Republican legislation.
In his confirmation hearings before the Senate Finance Committee last month, Price refused to go on record with his right-wing views on health care policy, repeatedly refusing to answer “yes” or “no” to questions from committee Democrats on whether he supported block-granting of Medicaid, privatization of Medicare, or overturning ACA guarantees of insurance coverage to people with preexisting conditions.
The program popularly known as obamacare, while providing modest government subsidies and guaranteeing certain  “essential” services, was implemented for the purpose of slashing health care costs for corporations and the 
government and shifting cost burdens onto the working class.

It requires uninsured individuals to purchase coverage from 

private insurers under threat of tax penalty.
Democrats aimed much of their fire on Price for his “bad judgment” in actively trading shares of medical and pharmaceutical companies while he was shaping health policy in Congress. They had little to offer in resistance to his opposition to the ACA and his repeated claim in response to their queries: “People will have access to the highest quality of health care at an affordable price.”
Price’s record, however, speaks to the reactionary character of his views and policies. His “Empowering Patients First Act,” put forward in the House in 2015, calls for repealing the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid, the insurance program of the poor jointly administered by the federal government and the states. About half of the 20 million people who have gained insurance under the ACA did so through Medicaid expansion.
Price, along with Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wisconsin), has endorsed block-granting Medicaid, which would result in deep cuts to the program and denial of benefits to those who qualify. Since its inception in 1965, Medicaid has been an open-ended program, meaning that as more people become eligible, states receive more federal money.
Under block-granting, states would be given a set amount, or “block,” of funds that would not keep pace with health care costs or increases in enrollment due to rising unemployment, poverty, natural disasters or other factors. States would be faced with the task of deciding who should be denied benefits—poor children, poor pregnant women, poor seniors?
The House Republican budget plan for fiscal year 2017 called for block-granting Medicaid. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated that, if that budget had passed, Medicare spending would have been slashed by $1 trillion over a decade.
According to the School Superintendents Association (AASA), nearly 40 percent of children in the US receive their health care through Medicaid. A recent report by the group estimated that under Republican proposals to restructure financing of Medicaid, the percentage of uninsured children could go from 12 percent to an estimated 21 percent or higher.
AASA projects that Medicaid cuts due to block-granting or placing a per capita cap on benefits would result in lost funding to special education grants and health services for students in poverty. School districts, some of the largest employers in communities, would be forced to furlough or lay off school personnel who are paid, in part or entirely, through Medicaid reimbursement.
The new HHS secretary also stands for the privatization of Medicare, the government insurance program that provides benefits to more than 55 seniors and the disabled. In July 2009, speaking in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, Price wrote in an op-ed in Politico: “I can attest that nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government’s intrusion into medicine through Medicare.”
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price told reporters on November 17 that he expected Republicans in the House to move on major Medicare reforms “six to eight months” into the Trump administration. Privatization of Medicare, through vouchers or another system, has been a key feature of Ryan’s budget proposal for years.
Price indicated that the assault on Medicare would be tackled through budget reconciliation, the same tactic already used by Republicans as the first step to repeal Obamacare. This process allows passage of bills with a simple majority in the Senate, avoiding a Democratic filibuster.
Medicare has vastly improved the lives and health of American seniors, lifting millions out of poverty and expanding life expectancy. Medicare and Medicaid were the last social reforms wrested from the ruling establishment, won in the course of bitter struggles of the working class.
Price’s reactionary views are in line with his membership, until last year, in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. AAPS is an ultra-conservative group founded in 1943 to “fight socialized medicine and to fight the government takeover of medicine.”
AAPS opposed the Social Security Act of 1965, which established Medicare and Medicaid, arguing that “the effect of the law is evil and participation in carrying out its provisions is, in our opinion, immoral,” and called for doctors to boycott Medicare. Its web site currently notes: “We have helped hundreds of doctors opt out of Medicare through information on our web site and our limited legal consultation service.”
The association’s journal has advocated beliefs that HIV does not cause AIDS, that being gay reduces life expectancy, that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer, and that vaccines are associated with autism.
Individuals espousing such anti-scientific and anti-social views are the types being tapped by Trump to populate his administration, along with his fascistic chief adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, and others associated with the “alt-right” Breitbart News. Alongside a lineup of retired generals and billionaires, Trump is assembling the most right-wing cabinet in history, pledged to ride roughshod over democratic and social rights, including the right to free, high-quality health care.






It’s just begun!!!

“This amnesty for corporate bribery and criminality reveals 

the essence of the Trump administration’s scorched earth 

campaign against business regulations.”

“Under Obama, not a single leading banker was 

prosecuted for the criminal activities that led to 

the biggest financial disaster and deepest slump 

since the 1930s, destroying the jobs, life savings 

and living standards of tens of millions of 

workers in the US and around the world.”

 “Our entire crony capitalist system, Democrat and Republican alike, has become a kleptocracy approaching par with third-world hell-holes.  This is the way a great country is raided by its elite.” 

---- Karen McQuillan  



There is a vast chasm between this empty populist rhetoric and the personnel that Trump has selected to populate his government. The speech followed a series of cabinet picks, including billionaire asset strippers, Wall Street bankers, and dedicated opponents of financial and corporate regulations, public education and Medicare and Medicaid, to lead the Treasury, Commerce, Education and Health and Human Services departments.
TRUMP  IMPOSES  OBAMA-CLINTONOMICS:  Cut Federal Pensions and Medicare to Cover Tax Cuts For the Super Rich
"Trump is not the initiator of this class war against working people. It has been underway for decades, beginning in earnest with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and continuing under every succeeding administration, including the eight-year tenures of Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The colossal redistribution of wealth and income from the bottom to the top of American society reached record proportions under Obama, whose legacy of falling living standards and worsening economic crisis for tens of millions of workers was a decisive factor in the victory of the fascistic demagogue and con artist Trump."

AMERICA THE ADDICTED: 1 in 7 are addicted
MEXICO’S BIGGEST EXPORTS TO U.S.: Heroin, Criminals, Anchor baby breeders for 18 years of gringo-paid welfare.


Trump plans rollback of drug industry regulations

Trump plans rollback of drug industry regulations
By Brad Dixon
6 February 2017
Trump met last week with pharmaceutical industry lobbyists and executives at the White House where he announced his plans to drastically reduce the regulatory power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while slashing taxes on the pharmaceutical industry.
Participants at Tuesday’s meeting included 
Stephen Ubl, head of the drug industry trade 
group PhRMA, and the CEOs of Novartis, 
Merck, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson.
Trump has demagogically postured as a critic of the pharmaceutical industry, including calling for rule changes to allow the federal government to use the bulk purchasing power of Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.
“Pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot power,” Trump said at his first press conference as president-elect on January 11. He said that it was necessary to “create new bidding procedures for the drug industry, because they’re getting away with murder.”
Trump has now abandoned any pretense of opposition.
“We’re going to be changing a lot of the rules,” Trump proclaimed prior to the meeting.
“I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare, which is what’s happening,” Trump told reporters after the meeting, reversing his previous position on allowing Medicare to negotiate prices and falsely stating that the program currently does so.
“We’re going to be lowering taxes, we’re going to be getting rid of regulations that are unnecessary,” said Trump. He said that he wants to get rid of 75 or 80 percent of FDA regulations.
Biotech and Pharmaceutical stock shares rallied following the meeting, and Trump’s plan was met with approval by the industry lobbyists and CEOs gathered at the meeting.
“Tax, deregulation—those are things that could really help us expand operations,” commented Eli Lilly CEO Dave Ricks, according to Reuters.
“These changes are going to be great for the country,” Celgene Chairman Robert Hugin told the Washington Post.
The deregulation of the FDA and the streamlining of the drug approval process will result in less knowledge about the safety and efficacy of the drugs approved by the FDA.
“Streamlining drug approvals sounds good, but the agency has already weakened approval standards and patients are paying the price—hugely expensive drugs that don’t even work,” Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, told the New York Times.
Dr. Michael Carome, the director of Public Citizen’s health research group, noted in a statement that Trump’s proposal would “destroy the ability of the agency to protect patients and consumers from unsafe or ineffective medications and medical devices, hazardous foods and dietary supplements, and dangerous tobacco products.”
“The end result would be countless preventable deaths, injuries and illnesses across the US,” he said.
These risks have already been heightened by the bipartisan legislation passed late last year, the 21st Century Cures Act. The Act significantly rolls back the regulatory authority of the FDA, lowers the standards that must be met before a drug is approved, and expands expedited approvals.
The FDA will be further hindered by Trump’s executive orders instituting a hiring freeze and the rule that two regulations must be removed for every new one.
“That will cripple the FDA’s ability to do anything other than regulate by non-binding guidance documents,” David Vladeck, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, told the Washington Post.
“To hollow out the agency’s authority by forbidding it from dealing with emerging issues through new regulations, and perhaps even giving guidance will jeopardize consumers and threaten the reputation of the agency around the world,” Vladeck said.
Trump tied his criticism of high drug prices to his “America First” rhetoric of economic nationalism, attacking “global freeloading” through “foreign price controls.”
“Our trade policy will prioritize that foreign countries pay their fair share for U.S.-manufactured drug, so our drug companies have greater financial resources to accelerate development of new cures, and I think that’s so important,” Trump said.
Instead of allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which Trump referred to as “price fixing,” he claimed that competition spurred by deregulation and tax cuts would bring down drug prices.
This approach will do nothing to address skyrocketing drug prices in the United States, which have doubled since 2011 and are up to ten times higher in the US than in other countries.
The pharmaceutical industry, which continues to consolidate through mergers and acquisitions, is notorious for dodging competition when it threatens the bottom line. For example, drug companies will often raise prices almost simultaneously with their competitors, a practice known as “shadow pricing.” When a drug is about to go off patent, companies will often pay potential generic competitors to hold off on introducing generic versions in “pay-for-delay” deals.
Moreover, there is little evidence that high drug prices are due to the costs associated with researching and developing drugs. According to an article published in August of last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, large pharmaceutical companies invest only 10 to 20 percent of their revenue in R&D. The authors cite an analysis that looked at 26 products or product classes over the past 25 years and found that more than half originated in publicly funded research centers.
The authors of the article conclude that “there is little evidence of an association between research and development costs and drug prices; rather, prescription drugs are priced in the United States primarily on the basis of what the market will bear.”
In response to Trump’s meeting, Democrats continued to perpetuate illusions in the president’s demagogic attacks on the pharmaceutical industry, with Senator Bernie Sanders and Maryland representative Elijah Cummings issuing a joint statement saying they “hope” Trump “really” takes on the industry.
“I look forward to working with President Trump on this issue if he is serious about standing up to the pharmaceutical industry and reducing drug prices,” Sanders said after Trump’s meeting.
The Trump administration has not yet named its nominee for FDA commissioner, who would be charged with “streamlining” the agency. Four possible nominees have been mentioned, all of whom favor weakening FDA regulations.
Jim O’Neill, an associate of Trump transition adviser and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, is a managing director at Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management. He has called for changing FDA regulations to allow pharmaceutical companies to begin marketing drugs before they have been shown to be effective.
“We should reform FDA so it is approving drugs after their sponsors have demonstrated safety, and let people start using them at their own risk, but not much risk, of safety,” O’Neill said in a 2014 speech.
Balaji Srinivasan, another Thiel associate, is the CEO and co-founder of 21 Inc., which develops software and hardware for bitcoin micropayments, and was a co-founder and chief technical officer at Counsyl, a company that developed a prenatal genetic test for chromosome-related birth defects.
“Drug development shows that modern regimen is not necessary for safe innovation,” Srinivasan said in a tweet in December.
Scott Gottlieb is a former FDA deputy commissioner and venture capitalist who has worked with numerous drug companies. He is currently a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
Finally, the Trump transition team has spoken with Dr. Joseph Gulfo about possibly heading the FDA. Gulfo, a former CEO of drug and medical device companies, has criticized the FDA for delaying approvals by requiring clinical trials demonstrating that a drug is effective, and has called on the FDA to rely more on “biomarkers” rather than actual clinical outcomes. He says that any attempts to impose price controls on drugs would be “punishing” the pharmaceutical industry.
The positions of the potential nominees are at odds with a report released by the FDA last month showing that reducing drug approval standards would pose greater financial and health risks for patients.
The report highlighted 22 case studies of drugs, vaccines and medical devices tested since 1999 where promising data from smaller and shorter phase 2 clinical trials, which often rely on biomarkers instead of clinical outcomes, diverged from the larger phase 3 randomized controlled trials. The phase 3 studies failed to confirm phase 2 findings on effectiveness (14 cases), safety (1 case), or both (7 cases).

“As a result of the Phase III studies discussed in this paper, patients outside of clinical trials were not subjected to drugs that would not benefit them or to the risk of unnecessary serious toxicities, and did not suffer unnecessary financial expenditures. Where effective alternative therapies existed, they were not diverted from proven treatments; where an implanted medical device was at issue, patients were spared unnecessary surgical procedures,” the report concludes.

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