Corporate Health Care Giants Make Their Move

These are the halcyon days for PoliticusUSA. Staff writers and contributors have an endless smorgasbord of Republican rubbish to expose. You could write on a different issue that Republicans have twisted and misrepresented every day for a year and you still wouldn’t cover the endless destruction wrought through their fealty to the corporate multi-national gods.

Today, I’ve plucked health care from the mountain of ruinous options. The center piece of any observations about health care is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or, as its better known, Obamacare, an insulting defaming of the president, embraced by the so-called “liberal” media.

Despite Republican efforts that would do the sleaziest of con men proud, millions upon millions have been added to the insured rolls as reflected in these numbers. Not giving the least little damn about the poor and infirm, Republican legislators and governors, national and state, continue to politically obsess on strategies to put all health care power in the hands of pharmaceuticals and insurance giants. And, to a certain extent, they’re succeeding, in spite of somewhat surprising decisions by the Supreme Court breathing continued life into the ACA.

It’s not that the opposition to ACA hasn’t tried on the judicial front. All they do is file lawsuits aimed at repealing the act. Here’s a sampling. There are a few pronounced weaknesses with the legislation. I’ve already written widely about the health insurance scammers, who thanks to a single vote by Joe Lieberman that served to eliminate the “public option” from the original ACA legislation.

That’s a multi-billion dollar gift that the major insurers will take advantage of by setting the premiums wherever they want them and for the cheaper policies make sure the deductibles are obscenely high. The insurance companies are comfortably ensconced in an irreversible catbird seat because of the vast majority of Democratic voters that are too lazy to give up a fraction of their Tuesday. Small businesses are increasingly opting out of ACA or working the system with their books to make sure they don’t meet the criteria for inclusion. Considering virtually all extraneous costs are passed onto the consumer, these moves are downright unpatriotic and unfeeling.

Then there’s the matter of changing your health insurance if it doesn’t meet your needs during open enrollment season. Washington Post Writers Group columnist, Catherine Rampell, a rare voice of national media reason on this subject, points out that numerous economic studies have shown that insurers “jack up rates on those too lazy or inattentive to investigate other options.” Again, laziness has a steep cost in a Democracy that tilts toward those only too eager to take advantage of a slothful population. Ms. Rampell adds that plans end up raising premiums, deductibles and co-pays in an never-ending cycle of ripping off those intimidated by the complexity of changing plans.

Occupying about half the seats on the health care gravy-train are the pharmaceuticals. Republican legislative destruction of historical bills designed to limit monopolistic behavior, has that train roaring down the tracks to unprecedented prosperity for the multi-national pharmaceuticals. R & D industry figures to the contrary, drug companies mostly take advantage of years of federal government research grants to Universities from the National Institutes of Health. The trillion dollar industry also builds on ingredients that are merely tweaked, and in many cases are not any more effective than their predecessors, costing a fraction of their new replacement. An estimated 80% of drug company expenditures go to marketing.

Here is a wonderful Google book site that explains in detail how such sleight of hand works. When you read the section on brand name and generic drugs, bear in mind that the new trade legislation seeks to extend the patents on brand name drugs by years, so the pharmaceuticals can charge you maximum dollars.

As for monopolies, AP reports on a current example in the combining of mighty Pfizer and Allergan together to the tune of $160 billion. That’s just one deal in a basket of drug deals totaling nearly 2 TRILLION dollars in completed or pending actions. The silence from most Republicans is deafening, even though, when added together, the final results will probably double the prices for their meds in the not too distant future if the deal passes the muster of regulators in the U.S. and the European Union, among others.

Allergan made a ton of strategic moves (about 20 or so in the last couple of years) prior to the announcement of the proposed merger to seize control of what are undoubtedly the more profitable of assorted meds.

Adding insult to injury, the Pfizer and Allergan merge would create the world’s largest drug company with a key “inversion” component allowing U.S. based Pfizer to shift it’s tax base to Dublin Ireland-based Allergan. The new company will escape hundreds of millions in U.S. taxes per year. Ireland is a very corporate tax-friendly environment. “Faith and begorrah”, inversions must be in the bible somewhere. Pfizer is already ‘loop-holing some $74 billion in tax-avoidance profits offshore.

For the record, inversion moves are strongly opposed by both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Clinton said it will leave “U.S. taxpayers holding the bag” while Sanders termed the deal a “disaster” for Americans already paying high prescription drugs costs. Interestingly enough, Donald Trump agrees with the Democratic candidates, calling the deal “disgusting.” Marco Rubio wanted it both ways: “Pfizer has an obligation to maximize profits for shareholders.” He then went on to say that what the president did with the IRS to prevent inversions doesn’t work. Translation: Rubio did NOT criticize inversions or the merger. Most of the other Republican candidates seem to playing it close to the vest. Maybe we’ll find out their true feelings in the upcoming debate.

So everybody on Viagra, Lipitor and Eliquis, among the 337 drugs on the Pfizer roster, is going to have to dig deeper into their wallets if this deal goes through as expected. On the Allergan side, the product numbers are much smaller, but for those who seek perpetual Barbi Dollism, Botox, materials for breast implants and Juvederm are among the roughly 45 offerings under its banner.

Another Republican sweep in 2016 and you can write this country off for at least a generation. Are you listening registered Democrats?