Demand Transparency. Force pharmaceutical companies to justify dramatic cost increases. And have “Socialist” Rick Scott help?
Millions of Americans rely every day on prescription drugs to maintain their health. It is flagrantly unfair that U.S. Consumers pay the highest prices in the world and that many older adults have to choose between filling their prescriptions and buying food. From cancer treatments to EpiPens, drug companies' skyrocketing prices are pushing life-saving treatments out of reach for those who need them. Trump, Congress and state governments must stop pharmaceutical greed and cut drug prices now, not just talk about it. No one should have to choose between buying medicine or buying food for their families. It's shameful.
Congress needs to quit talking and take action to protect seniors and all consumers and taxpayers from price gouging by drug companies. Demand that your legislators support commonsense solutions to lower prescription drug prices today. Very few are doing the job.
Ask Rick Scott what’s he’s doing – for one so entwined in the “swamp” of political BS, he is now pushing to cut prescription drug prices, and drawing fierce opposition from groups that usually are his allies — those on the political Republican right, who are condemning his proposal as “socialism.” What kind of BS position is that? Scott is certainly an unusual advocate for lowering drug prices. But, “socialism” because you want to make drug companies accountable and transparent?
The multimillionaire former governor and his wife, Ann, have been longtime investors in Gilead Sciences, the controversial manufacturer of Hepatitis C medication that cost U.S. and Florida taxpayers millions of dollars when used to treat Medicaid patients and prison inmates – a cash cow for Scott. Gilead also became a model for the kind of exorbitant pricing Scott now says he wants eliminated. Why did he say nothing before now? He had 8 years as governor to do so.
“Is Sen. Rick Scott a reformer? This legislation may suggest a reformer emerging or it may be political expediency,” said Jeremy Leaming, with the National Health Law Program. Scott does nothing that does not benefit him.
GateHouse Media last year first reported that Scott owned $1.1 million in Gilead stock in 2013, the year the company introduced its Solvadi Hep C medication, which soon outrageously sold for $1,000 per pill. This staggering cost of the medication eventually led to a Senate investigation that concluded Gilead put profits before patients by refusing to lower prices or offer discounts in order to maximize returns and stave off competitors. What did Scott say at this time? Nothing.
But even with the then-governor as an investor, state officials sought to avoid the high-cost Gilead drugs. Leaming’s organization sued the Scott administration claiming the state’s Medicaid program was only using Gilead’s costly drugs when patients were so sick they were close to needing a liver transplant. Was Scott concerned at that time about pursuing a company clearly ripping off Florida consumers? Of course not because doing so would negatively impact he and his wife as investors.
Medicaid changed its policy in 2016, but this year a federal judge condemned the state’s “long and sordid history of neglecting” inmates suffering from Hep C during Scott’s tenure and ordered Corrections Department officials to treat all prisoners with the disease. Altruistic Rick Scott? Not hardly.
Now Scott’s Senate proposal, filed in April, but difficult to equate to humanitarian principles versus political motivation, is comically being attacked by conservative groups for tying the price of drugs in the U.S. to the lowest price paid in Canada, Japan, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Scott’s made enough money apparently from his self-serving undisclosed investments in greedy Big Pharma and from committing Medicare fraud in his prior business life to now suddenly become a humanitarian? Still very doubtful.
Right-leaning organizations also oppose Scott’s bill, echoing industry claims that foreign reference pricing would reduce needed pharmaceutical research and slow development of new treatments. “This will inevitably suppress innovation and harm American competitiveness,” a coalition of 50 groups and activists said in an open letter to Congress blasting the legislation by Scott and fellow Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. Who do these people serve? Assume you’re a well-meaning conservative and yet these alleged conservative morons, so entwined with the fraudsters of the pharmaceutical industry, don’t want you and those most in need to save on prescription drugs. How do you reconcile that?
This BS coalition of 50 groups and activists said in their letter to Congress that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom it described as a “self-avowed socialist,” had introduced similar legislation. Among those signing were representatives of Americans for Tax Reform, the American Conservative Union, FreedomWorks and Florida’s own James Madison Institute. These are self-serving, don’t give a sh*# about you, extreme right wing morons who are incapable of debating these topics against anyone with commonsense.
The “socialist” tag is one Scott has frequently used on others, deploying it as a weapon against Sanders; and, his Democratic rival in last year’s campaign, former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. But it’s not socialism when he pushes the idea?
Trump has sought to cast his many Democratic challengers for the White House as left-wing socialist radicals. But what does he do with Scott? Socialism is great for fraudsters when the banks and financials institutions are bailed out, socialism in its purest form on behalf of those who clearly would have been shuttered completely and rightfully so, but not when the goal is to help those who most need the help and can least afford it.
Scott said he’s willing to challenge the powerful pharmaceutical industry. He’s doing so after pocketing a “golden parachute” worth hundreds of millions of dollars derived from his company that was fined $1.7 billion dollars for committing Medicare fraud, the largest fine levied as of that time. “I ran the largest hospital company in the country,” Scott told Fox News recently. “My bill does exactly what I did in the business. I told the pharmaceutical companies you can’t charge Americans more than you charge Europeans. And that’s what we did. It’s pretty basic.” Total BS. He ripped off the government, was busted for it, and then used the money he confiscated from you and me to run for governor and have the citizenry of Florida be dumb enough to elect him.
Scott’s legislation also would require pharmacies to tell patients what the out-of-pocket costs of their prescriptions would be if they didn’t use insurance — which he says sometimes can be cheaper. Why should what you pay ever be cheaper if you pay cash versus pay through private insurance for which you pay premiums? See the fundamental problem?
But it’s the European pricing that’s attracted the most attention.
“Everybody wants to ‘do something’ about drug prices,” said Naomi Lopez Bauman, director of health care policy at the Goldwater Institute, which opposes Scott’s bill. “But sometimes, expensive drug therapy is what a small sample of patients need. Do you do away with that?” Seriously? Does that make commonsense?
“Even Gilead’s drugs were very expensive. But if they kept someone from needing a liver transplant, weren’t they worth it? And more companies have been brought into the Hep C market place and the prices have come down,” she added. But the prices were jacked up beyond all reason because there was no one watching the fox and the fox has been guarding the henhouse for far too long.
Scott’s two-faced investment in Gilead was revealed in his 2013 financial disclosure with the state, one of the few expansive looks at the governor’s finances during his two terms in office. As a former health care administrator, Scott last June reported a $232.6 million net worth — up 56 percent from a year earlier. During most of his time in office, a blind trust held his wealth and made public none of the stocks and other assets it controlled.
But when he ran for U.S. Senate last year, Scott was required to file a federal financial disclosure, which gave a broader view of his family’s wealth — including holdings by his wife, Ann, which were revealed for the first time.
It showed that Ann Scott’s investments often were identical to those in the blind trust, prompting questions about whether the governor was truly unaware of his holdings — a purported central goal of the account. Sure, we believe he wasn’t aware.
Scott’s successor, fellow Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, has signed legislation repealing the state’s blind trust law, approved after lawmakers said it allowed public officials to shield important information from voters. No sh*#. A positive step, at least.
GateHouse was among several news organizations that questioned how “blind” the trust was and whether Scott profited from investments that paralleled public policy decisions by his administration. There’s no doubt he did. Scott’s federal filing, based on asset ranges, showed the couple is worth between $255 million and $510 million.
The report also showed that while the governor shed most of his holdings in Gilead, he reported earning between $100,000 and $1 million in dividends and capital gains from the investment. The report indicated that Ann Scott still owned as much as $100,000 in Gilead stock, and also reported as much as $1 million in income from the asset.
It’s the equivalent of John Gotti building a children’s home and implementing a “get in touch with your feelings” program designed to teach humanity to the next generation even though he’d just as soon slit your throat and smile. Hard to accept if the effort is truly altruistic versus self-serving and political. Perhaps, Rick Scott has experienced an epiphany, hopefully so. But regardless, it’s a position that must be pursued even if it’s Rick Scott, the antithetical example of true altruism, promoting his “socialism” mantra requiring greedy drug companies to tell the consuming public the truth about drug costs.