Kyrsten Sinema So Happy She Could Help Seniors Pay Too Much For Their Medications
The scariest thing this Halloween isn't ghosts or goblins or apples filled with razorblades. It's manic nightmare pixie congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema pretending like she did not just fuck over millions of Americans across the land by forcing Democrats to get rid of the extremely popular provision in the Build Back Better bill that would have allowed Medicare to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies instead of just paying whatever price they want, like suckers.
After it was announced yesterday that the provision, which would have saved us about $600 billion over 10 years, was out of the "Build Back Better" reconciliation bill framework, the senator's spokeswoman Hannah Hurley had the absolute gall to release a very snide and very incorrect statement suggesting that the sentient Rae Dunn Rosé All Day wine mug from Arizona was "working hard" to lower prescription drug prices.
Just try and read this nonsense without exploding, via the Arizona Republic:
"Despite uninformed claims to the contrary, this agreement shows that Kyrsten means what she says: she will work with anyone to get things done for Arizona, and she will do so while respecting the integrity of her direct, good-faith negotiations — rather than negotiating policy details through the press," she said.
"For months, Kyrsten has engaged with the White House and colleagues to find common ground and compromise on many issues, including Medicare drug negotiations. She and President Biden reached agreement to include historic Medicare drug price negotiations in the proposed budget reconciliation package.
"As she promised Arizonans, Kyrsten is working hard to ensure prescription drugs are available at the lowest cost possible, and she looks forward to continuing that work."
You may recall Hurley from the time she tried to claim that outrage over Sinema's thumbs-down curtsy on raising the minimum wage was sexism.
I stand by what I said: commentary about a female Senator's body language, clothing, or physical demeanor does not… https://t.co/9we9OSvKxf— Hannah L. Hurley (@Hannah L. Hurley) 1615000440.0
To be clear, even the negotiated drug costs of the original plan would not have been "the lowest cost possible." The big cap on prices would not have even applied to most drugs — and the only new drugs it would have applied to would have been those with a list cost equal to or greater than the median American family's yearly income ($78,500 in 2020). The cap for nearly all of them would have been set at 120 percent of the average international market price (ie: what people in other countries pay). We would still be overpaying, we just would not have been overpaying nearly as much. It was a very, very gentle plan, in terms of not making things too scary for pharmaceutical companies who love price gouging.
At the very least, Sinema should have congratulated herself for going to bat for the poor, downtrodden pharmaceutical companies what only want to charge American seniors twice what the VA pays for the same drugs. That, at least, would have been honest. It also would have been a lot more honest for her spokeswoman to say that when she said she'll work with anyone, she meant "she'll work with Ted Cruz."
To be even more clear, Sinema and President Biden did not reach "an agreement to include historic Medicare drug price negotiations." Sinema supposedly supports a "narrower proposal" that would cap out-of-pocket costs for seniors, which has yet to be included in the bill. This would still require Medicare to pay retail, meaning that although she claims it would lower government costs over the course of several years, it would very likely cost us even more tax money, which she also won't allow us to obtain by slightly raising tax rates on rich people or corporations.
The only negotiations allowed in the plan she supports, the Reduced Costs and Continued Cures Act crafted by Rep. Scott Peters of California, is for "Medicare to negotiate drug prices in Part B for products that no longer have exclusivity and for which there is no competition on the market" and one that would allow the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to "enter negotiations with manufacturers of these products that we have seen to be extraordinarily expensive over the last decade to secure price concessions of between 25 and 35 percent."
This means that we could negotiate on drugs where there could be a generic but no one has bothered, and in situations where the amount we currently pay is a public relations scandal waiting to happen, but in no other instances. Cute.
The primary way the Reduced Costs and Continued Cures Act will supposedly reduce costs is by "encouraging competition" among pharmaceutical companies, which, as we all know, means absolutely nothing. It is described as "a drug pricing plan that ensures American medical science can continue to quickly develop new cures and treatments for some of the toughest and rarest chronic diseases, like cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's," which is also bullshit. According to a study released earlier this year, the vast majority of profits pharmaceutical companies reap by gouging Americans actually go straight into the pockets of their C-suite employees. Or into their advertising, which they shouldn't be allowed to do anyway.
Additionally, American tax dollars have at least partially funded the research and development for every new pharmaceutical for the last decade, so it's not clear why we need to be price gouged to fund that in the first place. Especially since we then pay more for those drugs than our European and Canadian counterparts. How about instead of overpaying for drugs and letting them do whatever they want with the profits, we just directly give these companies more grants that can only be used for research and development. Or would that make too much sense?
I don't expect Sinema to give a flying crap about seniors and their medical costs. She has far more serious concerns, like wine internships and European vacations, to deal with. However, it would be nice if she could apply the same sense with which she loads up on Betsey Johnson accoutrements at TJ Maxx to her job in the Senate and stop forcing our country to pay retail. She could at least not make us look like total suckers.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse