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Mike Pence visits Miami to talk progress on a COVID-19 vaccine.

Emails & Opinions

Julio Fuentes: Protect American innovation when addressing cost of health care

The innovative spirit is the cornerstone of America’s health care success.

The University of Miami welcomed Vice President Mike Pence to commemorate a truly impressive feat of medical innovation — a crucial step toward a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pence’s visit marked the beginning of Phase III trials of a 30,000-person study in which The Miller School will enroll 1,000 volunteers in South Florida — an area ripe for clinical trial diversity — to determine the effectiveness of a potential vaccine.

While there, the Vice President participated in a roundtable discussion with Gov. Ron DeSantis, researchers, and university officials, highlighting the progress America has managed to achieve in its battle against the novel coronavirus.

This is a great example of business rising to meet a societal challenge and the importance of partnerships between the business and academic communities.

Our nation’s health care community has made astonishing headway toward a COVID-19 vaccine — and the Donald Trump administration is absolutely right to celebrate its progress.

America has, in record time, marshaled its resources, expertise, and manpower to address this crisis head-on. Driven by the private sector’s innovation, we are closer than ever to solving the coronavirus pandemic.

The innovative spirit is the cornerstone of America’s health care success. Unfortunately, it’s that very innovation the administration’s recent proposals threaten to destroy — especially as we face a global pandemic.

Trump’s administration recently announced plans to proceed with a number of executive orders, designed to lower the cost of health care. Part of the announcement included an idea to implement a disastrous business model for establishing health care drug prices: the Most Favored Nation pricing proposal.

Essentially, the Most Favored Nation would force drug manufacturers to set the price of medications based on their foreign counterparts. It’s a regulation that, at first glance, may appear harmless, but will destroy the very innovation

we’re witnessing today and impact our access to the latest treatments and cures researchers are working toward each day.

Most Favored Nation establishes a government-mandated price control over drug costs — a well-established tool for creating medical shortages and stripping financial incentives to innovate. But more than that, Most Favored Nation doesn’t just import foreign prices to U.S. markets; it also imports the myriad problems of socialized health care.

With its severe delays, chronically limited access, and stifled innovation, we cannot welcome socialized medicine to America’s system of health care. We cannot mandate our U.S. drug companies to adhere to the prices set by foreign governments.

Our business community has continued to rise to the challenges COVID-19 brings, and we must embrace the power of free-market innovation, rather than the stifling that innovation with unnecessary regulations. To address the President’s noble

goal and lower the cost of health care, we must embrace rebate reform — something the Trump Administration originally introduced and then pulled back.

Biopharmaceutical manufacturers offer a variety of programs offering coupons and rebates designed to lower the cost of medication for consumers — programs that many of us are utilizing as Florida tops 100,000 jobless claims.

Unfortunately, various middlemen, like pharmacy benefit managers, manipulate the system, lining their pockets with the savings intended for consumers.

Rebate reform would address this issue and directly impact out-of-pocket costs for consumers. By forcing these middlemen to demonstrate their use of those rebates, Trump could introduce much-needed transparency in the notoriously opaque rebate system.

Ultimately, implementing rebate reform would greatly benefit American consumers and directly lower out-of-pocket costs.

Unlike the Most Favored Nation proposal, it would increase access to lifesaving medication, particularly for lower-income and minority communities. As we see increasing rates of disparity among our communities of color, we cannot afford to adopt the barriers to access inherent in socialized medicine.

The cost of the Most Favored Nation proposal is simply too high. We must celebrate our innovative spirit and find solutions like rebate reform to meet the goals Trump has set and ensure consumers see the savings they deserve in out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter.

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Julio Fuentes is the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

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