Florida GOP lawmakers turned to Maine Democratic leader to discuss drug pricing plan
Screenshot via The Florida Channel.

Drew Gattine
Drew Gattine, a health policy expert, testified to the House HHS Committee.

Did Florida House Republicans invite a partisan Democrat to provide expert testimony on health care?

Drew Gattine, a senior policy fellow for the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), spoke on Jan. 8 to the House Health & Human Services Committee. He was one of two expert witnesses invited there to discuss international drug reference pricing. It’s an issue Gattine has discussed in front of state Legislatures across the country, including Connecticut, Minnesota and North Dakota.

But in Maine, Gattline served in the Legislature from 2013 until 2020 as a Democrat, and also chaired the Maine Democratic Party through the 2022 Midterm Election.

Rep. Randy Fine, who chairs the committee where Gattine testified, said he was unaware of the health expert’s political background, but it doesn’t matter to him.

“He was invited because of his day job, not because he is a politician on the side,” said Fine, a Palm Bay Republican.

“The think tank he works for has done a lot of work on the subject of international drug reference pricing around the country. I invited him and was unaware at the time he even was a legislator, let alone a Democrat, not that that should matter. Nor would it have changed my decision. We had another expert testify the same day and have another coming on Tuesday. I’m not aware of their partisan affiliation either.”

Notably, in January Florida had a Canadian drug import program approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Support for such policy had not historically broken across clear party lines.

Gattine discussed how various states have handled pricing issues.

Critics balked, however, at Gattine as a messenger. In the Maine Legislature, he voted in favor of allowing assisted suicide. He also voted against a prohibition on female genital mutilation for minor, though he voted for a prior version of the legislation.

He also supported a Maine law that prohibits businesses from designating single-stall restrooms to be used by a single gender.

The bills stand in stark contrast to recent laws passed in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation requiring public restrooms to be segregated by gender and prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors. The Florida Legislature last year never took up assisted suicide legislation filed by Democrats.

Fine said he didn’t ask Gattine about any of the legislative positions in Maine, nor did Gattine bring the issues up. He also stressed a desire for the Legislature this year to work across party lines on crafting certain policies in Florida.

“I believe all the Florida Democrat legislators voted to allow the mutilation of children in the name of fake gender science,” Fine said. “Obviously I strongly disagree with their acceptance of that form of child abuse. But that doesn’t mean I can’t work with many of them on other issues like antisemitism.”

Rep. Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican, notably did discuss the political issues Gattine may have seen debated in Maine around drug importation policy, and about the politics in other states where he has helped craft policy.

“What has been the pushback from the opponents of the bill, and what has it been from a political perspective?” Grant asked. “What has prevented the bills from passing in Oklahoma or North Dakota or Maine?”

Gattine responded, “I don’t think that the arguments against these types of bills changes when you go from state to state, no matter what the politics of that particular state are, and are actually not that different than what you hear when you watch the national debate.”

The committee discussed whether importing cheaper drugs from Canada will stifle innovation, and why the price of medication differs in each state. Gattine notably praised efforts in Florida, a state with a population of 22 million, while Canada has a population of about 38 million.

Some critics of drug importation said the NASHP, which bills itself as nonpartisan, has a history of supporting left-leaning policies and promoting “health equity.” The conservative Washington Free Beacon in 2022 reported on the organization requiring diversity, equity and inclusion training, something now outlawed at research institutes at Florida public universities. The group has hosted speeches by Democratic politicians including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Gattine discussed model legislation from the NASHP on international reference rates, language he hopes states look at when crafting policy and which would be broadly applicable.

Fine stressed the legislation on drug pricing he is working on this year is not modeled from the NASHP, but he wants lawmakers to hear from experts dealing with the issue across the country. Fine defended inviting Gattine, one of a number of experts asked to discuss policy with lawmakers.

“We invited him to come because he’s been working on it for years and just to present a broader perspective,” Fine said at the committee hearing.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • M8ke

    January 15, 2024 at 1:25 pm

    Drew Gattine is an extremely partisan democrat from Maine. His views, expressed in Maine, are socialistic bordering on communistic. He follows the mantle of democrats everywhere in recent years.
    No individual thought. Simply group think and action. He is 100% in favor of trans gender rights and has proposed that books, like Gender Queer, be promoted and placed in school libraries.He is opposed to everything the Republican Party stands for in Maine. He should not be trusted or listened to by any legislature anywhere.

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