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Monday, December 09, 2019

Healthcare

Bruce Fenton and Don Bolduc

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'It's not a legitimate role of government to be involved in health care in any way,' said New Hampshire GOP Senate candidate Bruce Fenton.

Two New Hampshire Republicans seeking their party's nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in the November general election said Wednesday that Medicare is a failure. Retired Army Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc and investment banker Bruce Fenton argued that the popular program should not be able to negotiate lower prescription drug prices because government is the problem.

Appearing at a primary debate hosted by the right-wing media outlet Newsmax alongside New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith, Bolduc and Fenton were asked whether a provision in the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act that allows the federal government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies "ultimately helps Americans."

"Listen, anything that the government's involved in is not good and doesn't work, period," the current frontrunner Bolduc replied to applause and cheers. He continued by making false claims about how the system works: "The worse thing about this whole thing is that Medicare doesn't negotiate anything. They do it with third-party insurance companies. So anyone that knows anything about Medicare and what it does, it doesn't do that, right?"

Bolduc then misled viewers about orders issued by former President Donald Trump in 2020 that Trump claimed lowered the price of insulin to $35 out of pocket, but in fact applied to very narrow segments of the population. This included an order issued in December 2020 that according to the Department of Health and Human Services under President Joe Biden would have imposed "excessive administrative costs and burdens" on health centers directed to provide the drug. Bolduc said: "President Trump put in a great executive order that lowered insulin to $35. What did Biden do? He reversed it, and Maggie Hassan supported that. It's terrible! Now it's up over several hundred dollars. That hurts people."

He continued:

Medicare was started in 1965. They've stolen from it ever since. That's what career politicians do. That's what the government does, it steals from people, it taxes them and then doesn't even give them a return on their investment. Medicare, we need to take care of our aging population. Definitely. It needs to be reformed and if we don't reform it, and we don't make it patient-focused, and we don't allow people to be in control of their own health care, medical freedom, then we're just violating our own constitutional rights.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program mostly used by Americans age 65 and older and funded through payroll taxes, provided coverage to more than 60 million people in 2020 — 300,000 of them in New Hampshire.

According to a May 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation report, 94% of Medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age or older said they were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the quality of care they receive.

Asked for his view, Fenton said the government should not be involved in the health care system at all.

Medicare is one of the, it's one of the many things that sounds good, but it isn't. Government corrupts everything that it touches, and there's a huge, huge price of all government programs, and we often forget that because things sound good, they sound like they're going to help people, or we get mistaken that it's compassion or something like that. But really, at the end of the day, these projects are generally corrupt, they reward cronies, and most importantly they're both expensive in terms of the human cost and the regulatory cost and the financial cost, in some cases causing financial ruin for some citizens. But they're also not effective. ... Government is ineffective, and it's not a legitimate role of government to be involved in health care in any way. We shouldn't have them involved in any of this, at all. We should entirely get government out of it and put the hands in the power of the people. That's where it belongs.

According to a column written by Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Sen. Bernie Sanders and published by Data for Progress in 2021, polling conducted by the organization and Social Security Works found "a full 83 percent of voters support expanding Medicare to cover hearing, vision, and dental care, including 86 percent of those over the age of 45. That popularity crosses party lines: 89 percent of Democrats, 82 of Independents, and 76 percent of Republicans are in favor." A poll conducted on behalf of the organization Patients for Affordable Drugs Now in April 2022 found overwhelming support for congressional efforts to lower what they consider excessively high drug prices.

The Democratic majorities in Congress voted unanimously on Aug. 7 in the House and Aug. 12 in the Senate to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, with provisions to allow negotiation and to cap out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs and insulin for Medicare recipients. Every single Republican in both chambers opposed the package, which also invested hundreds of billions of dollars in energy and climate change infrastructure and funded affordable health care coverage for three more years.

New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Morse was not asked about the issue at the debate on Wednesday, but told Manchester station WGIR's Chris Ryan on Aug. 18 that he would not have supported the legislation or the drug negotiation provisions because "when the government gets involved, we eliminate choices and that hurts the people in the state of New Hampshire. So, no, I'm against the government getting involved in anything to do with our lives."

In an email following the debate, the New Hampshire Democratic Party responded: "Tonight, Don Bolduc doubled down on his opposition to allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, proving once more that he would stand with Big Pharma over Granite Staters. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is a commonsense solution that will help bring down prescription drug prices across the board and put money back into Granite Staters' pockets."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

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Supreme Court

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Such is the state of the Republican Party that only eight of its 210 House members voted yes on a bill to protect the right to contraceptives. We're talking birth control.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Republican of Washington, denounced the bill as a "Trojan Horse for more abortions."

Start with the obvious. Contraceptives prevent the unwanted pregnancies that lead to abortions. Also, the number of abortions in this country has steadily declined over the last 40 years, the reason being increased contraceptive use.

Other Republicans complained that Democrats pushed the birth control protection bill just for show. After all, no state currently bans contraceptives. One might agree, except that Justice Clarence Thomas just wrote that the thinking behind the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade could apply to contraceptives as well.

Some have opposed Roe on the grounds that Congress, not the courts, should have enshrined any national right to abortion. Well, that's the approach just taken by the Democrat-controlled House concerning contraceptives. It passed a law guaranteeing a right to birth control.


Since Republicans are going down that path, one must ask, "What about embryos?" As a law professor, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett signed a statement that life began at fertilization. An embryo is a fertilized egg.

Fertility clinics discard thousands upon thousands of abandoned embryos every year. That's because a single round of in vitro fertilization treatment typically involves collecting 10 or more eggs with only one or two being implanted in the mother. Many countries actually require that these surplus embryos be destroyed after a certain period.

Shouldn't states declaring embryos to be people require the clinics to preserve all unused embryos or close down? The cost of storing frozen embryos can exceed $1,000 a year.

In the opinion overturning Roe, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that abortion destroys "potential life" and the life of an "unborn human being." Foes of contraception make the same argument, that sperm and eggs are potential life, even before they meet.

Then there is embryonic stem cell research, which holds great promise for defeating such medical scourges as Alzheimer's and heart disease. The procedures require destroying embryos (many of them donated by IVF patients who didn't need them).

Thanks to a new embryonic stem cell-derived therapy, a man ravaged by formerly incurable Type 1 diabetes seems to have been cured of this terrible condition. The overjoyed 57-year-old patient, Brian Shelton of Ohio, exclaimed: "This is a whole new life. It's like a miracle."

One of the developers was Dr. Doug Melton. In 2001, Melton had to cut his lab's ties to Harvard University after President George W. Bush barred federal funding for research involving the destruction of embryos. Fortunately for humankind, private money was found to help Melton establish a separate lab.

By the way, Bush never did anything about the IVF clinics that were discarding unused embryos. But in 2005, he put on a bizarre show at one of them where he said, "There is no such thing as a spare embryo." He noted that 81 embryos had already been "adopted" under a special program run by a pro-life group.

Well, that left only about 399,982 unused embryos then stored at IVF clinics — embryos that could have helped lead to cures for deadly diseases. We can only wonder how many lives might have been saved had medical research not been hobbled over two decades by an obsession over embryos that were getting thrown out anyway.

As the midterms approach, voters might ask themselves whether they want to empower a Republican Party that thinks like this — that couldn't get even one out of 27 members to support something as basic as birth control.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.