Julio Fuentes: Supporting Florida minority businesses means supporting pharma innovation

medical 3.8.22
There are better solutions to these price control policies.

The degree to which the Florida business community rose to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of inspiring. Yet, as the light at the end of the tunnel grows closer, it is paramount that our nation’s leaders do not ignore the calls from small-business owners to support their efforts with federal policy reforms.

As the president and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I know that the rising cost of health care is an issue that weighs heavy on the minds of Latino business owners and entrepreneurs across the Sunshine State. As the economy continues to recover, concerns over how rising health care costs will impact their bottom line or threaten the well-being of their employees cannot be overlooked.

While the health care system is in dire need of reform, any solution must not compromise the future of biopharmaceutical innovation in Florida and across the nation. Florida biopharmaceutical companies did not only play a massive role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic through the rapid development of vaccines and therapeutics but have also been a critical sector of our economy for years.

Beyond the 25,000 people directly employed, Florida’s biopharmaceutical industry indirectly supports over 109,000 jobs and produces $29 billion in economic output through relationships with thousands of vendors. Nevertheless, rather than pursuing bipartisan, common-sense legislation to lower drug prices, lawmakers in Washington continue to promote policies that would compromise the livelihoods of thousands of Hispanic and minority-owned businesses who rely on a thriving biopharmaceutical industry to keep their jobs, feed their families, and even manage their own health. There are better solutions to these price control policies, such as establishing a cap on out-of-pocket drug costs in Medicare Part D, lowering insurance premiums, and targeting middlemen in our health care system who rake in massive profits at the expense of patients.

Middlemen — pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in particular — are the biggest culprit behind the rising cost of prescription drugs in the United States. Due to massive consolidations over the past decade, only three PBM companies control 80% of the prescription drug market. Using their dominating market power, PBMs can pocket the drug discounts and rebates that pharmaceutical companies provide for patients, raking in massive profits while making medications less affordable in turn. Rather than penalizing the companies who take on the risk of developing a drug, lawmakers must go after PBMs and other shady middlemen who add no value to the health care system.

The bottom line is that supporting pharmaceutical innovation does not only ensure timely access to the best drugs and treatments for millions of vulnerable patients but is also vital to protecting tens of thousands of jobs and businesses across the great state of Florida. Lawmakers must listen to their constituents and prioritize policies to lower health care costs in a responsible, effective manner.


Julio Fuentes is president of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, representing more than 604,000 Hispanic-owned businesses in Florida that contribute more than $90 billion to our state economy annually.

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