Back last December, Tom Malinowski joined other Democrats and like-minded souls at a press event to trumpet legislation to reduce drug costs.
This was HR-3, a bill that, among other things, would require the federal government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare. In short the bill would mandate that drug costs not exceed 120 percent of the average price of the relevant drug in Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia.
With the high cost of prescription drugs a perennial issue, polls indicate about 85 percent of respondents back the bill. And it has passed the House.
But like so much about politics, this isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Republicans say the bill is bad for a number of reasons. They see it as a form of “price controls,” and more significantly, they fear it could hurt research and threaten jobs. That’s a big deal given the prominence of the pharmaceutical industry in New Jersey. For those reasons, the bill has gone nowhere in the GOP Senate.
This may be just another in a never-ending series of partisan arguments, but it’s now become part of the CD-7 congressional race between Malinowski and Republican Thomas Kean Jr.
Kean recently issued a release accusing Malinowski of no less an offense than wanting to “cripple the life sciences industry and hobble our ability to find a vaccine for COVID.”
Kean, in fact, has used a figure in the area of 50,000 to estimate the pharmaceutical industry job loss.
As supporting evidence, the Kean campaign cites an op-ed by Dean J. Paranicas, the president and CEO of the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey. In it,. Paranicas argues that the bill would not only put 54,000 of the state’s 377,000 pharmaceutical jobs at risk, it would severely reduce the $100 billion the industry now spends on research.
The Malinowski camp brushes all this aside, contending in a release of its own that Kean is just mouthing the talking points of an industry that contributes to his campaign.
If you try to cut through the deep political bush here, where do you end up?
For starters, bill supporters should acknowledge that lowering drug costs could adversely impact jobs and research.
So Kean has a point, But in stark political terms, does it really make sense to come down on the side of drug company profits?
Of course, the Republican candidate doesn’t look at it that way. His argument is that he’s coming down on the side of average New Jersey residents with jobs.
Yep, people want jobs. But they also want to pay reasonable – and not confiscatory – prices for the drugs they need.
Squaring that circle is the most recent CD-7 campaign issue.