Meet the Press

High Drug Prices: What Would Donald Trump Say?

Trump_Debate

In a new poll released yesterday, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that large majorities of Americans, regardless of political party, think drug prices are unreasonably high, drug companies put profits before patients, and government should limit the cost of high priced drugs and negotiate lower prices for Medicare.

However, the same poll found that 76% of Republicans preferred market competition over government regulation to lower drug prices.  In addition, while 74% of Republicans say the government should directly negotiate Medicare drug prices, a smaller number – 56% — believe it can be effective.

Perhaps this explains why Republican candidates for President have not addressed high drug prices, preferring instead to focus on Obamacare repeal, as reported by Politico.  Neither Scott Walker nor Marco Rubio have included drug prices in their Obamacare replacement proposals.

Will Donald Trump take on high drug prices?  If he does, what would he say?  Whatever he says about an issue quickly frames how other Republican candidates and the news media speak about it.  Such is Trump’s dominance of the daily news cycle.   That alone makes the question relevant and the answer useful.

He is also more in tune with the Republican base than the party’s establishment may want to admit, as   political commentator Ezra Klein observed earlier this week.  Trump is the only Republican candidate who opposes cuts in Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, a long-held position he directly links to making American strong again.

Interviewed on Larry King in 1999, he said, “What’s the purpose of a country if you’re not going to have defense and healthcare.  If you can’t take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it’s all over. I mean, it’s no good.”   He told the Iowa Freedom Summit earlier this year, “I want to make the country rich so that Social Security can be afforded, and Medicare and Medicaid.”

Recently, on Meet the Press, he said, “I want people to be taken care of from a health-care standpoint. But to do that, we have to be strong. I want to save Social Security without cuts. I want a strong country. And to me, conservative means a strong country with very little debt.”

In fact, Trump comes across as a Robin Hood, putting himself on the side of American citizens, taking money from wealthy countries he says rightfully belongs to us, fighting government corruption and stupidity, and expelling illegal aliens (to use his terminology).   He is also a deal maker, exploiting leverage or creating advantage to get what he wants.

What, then, would Donald Trump say about high drug prices?  To answer that question, here is an imagined Meet the Press conversation between host Chuck Todd (imagined) and Donald Trump (imagined).   It suggests Donald Trump could easily take high cost drugs to a place neither the other Republican candidates nor the drug industry want to go.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined):

Mr. Trump, in a new poll, 70% of Republicans want the government to limit how much pharmaceutical companies can charge for high-cost cancer drugs.  What would you do about the high cost of prescription drugs?

Donald Trump (Imagined):
Repeal Obamacare and replace it with something terrific.  It’s a disaster.  It’s virtually useless and big lie.  Deductibles are through the roof and costs are going up.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined):

How would repealing Obamacare lower drug costs?  They’re growing faster than other health costs – mainly because of the new specialty drugs – but they still only account for 10% of all health spending.

Donald Trump (Imagined):

Chuck, the drug company lobbyists did a fantastic job when Congress passed Obamacare.  They out-negotiated the President and got a great deal.  They supported Obamacare and agreed to help pay for it.  In return, they got more customers and higher prices.   When I repeal and replace Obamacare, the pharma companies will have to negotiate with me.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined):

Does that mean you support letting the government directly negotiate with drug companies over the prices it pays for Medicare drugs?

Donald Trump (Imagined):

Medicare is the largest single buyer of prescription drugs.  In business, a best customer gets the best deal.  When I buy televisions for my hotels, which I sadly can’t get in the US but that’s another issue, I use that leverage for a great price.  Yes I’d negotiate better prices with the drug companies.  But, it’d be different, like a business, not as price controls or more regulations in disguise.   You’ll be very pleased, very pleased with how I do it.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined):

But, what about the cost of drugs not covered by Medicare….these new cancer drugs that cost thousands of dollars.  In fact, the doctors who treat cancer are campaigning for lower prices.

Donald Trump (Imagined):

Chuck, I’ve got a deal where everyone wins.  I love the drug companies.  They’ve made great discoveries and cured many people.  I want the drug companies to create jobs in the US, making new drugs.  That takes money.  They hold almost a half-trillion dollars outside the United States because the taxes on bringing it home are too high.   Bring those dollars home, use them for jobs, discover new cures, keep prices under control and I’ll lower the taxes.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined): 

Republicans also think Americans should be able to buy prescription drugs imported from Canada, and by a wider margin than Democrats:  75% Republicans vs. 69% Democrats.  What do you think of that?

Donald Trump (Imagined):

The problem is much bigger.  What our pharmaceutical industry accomplishes is tremendous.  It benefits the entire world but prices are highest in the United States.   Per person, we spend twice as much as other wealthy nations.    It’s time other nations paid their fair share.  As you know, rich nations like Saudi Arabia must pay us back for what the Defense Department spends on protecting them.  Canada, the European Union and other wealthy nations should help pay for our National Institutes of Health.  The American taxpayer funds 85% of basic research.  We have to stop subsidizing their health care.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined)

The drug industry says that it needs to charge high prices because it takes so long to bring a drug to market.  Would you make any changes at the FDA?

Donald Trump (Imagined)

The FDA needs to do a better job on safety, especially after a drug is on the market.  Take vaccines, I don’t think kids should get them all at once.  Spread them out.  It doesn’t hurt anybody other than probably the pharmaceutical companies because they probably make more money putting it into one shot.    I want more approvals and more competition.  That will bring prices down.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined):

Speaking of health care.  Earlier, you said you would repeal and replace Obamacare.  How would you replace Obamacare?

Donald Trump (Imagined):

I believe in universal healthcare. I believe in whatever it takes to make people well and better.  What’s the purpose of a country if you’re not going to have defense and healthcare?  We can have something far better for the people, and far less expensive, both for the people and for the country.  And believe me there are plans that are so much better for everybody.  And everybody can be covered.  I’m not saying leave 50-percent of the people out.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined):

How would you pay for it?

Donald Trump (Imagined)

Get tough with the big players like China and OPEC that are ripping us off so we can recapture hundreds of billions of dollars to pay our bills, take care of our people, and get us on a path toward serious debt reduction. We must take care of our own people—we must make our country strong and rich again so that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will no longer be thought of as a problem. We must save these programs through strength, power, and wealth.

 

Chuck Todd (Imagined):

During the debate, you seemed to speak favorably about single payer systems in Scotland and elsewhere.  Do you favor a single payer system in the United States?

Donald Trump (Imagined):

No.   What we need in the United States is free market plan that provides consumer choice, keeps plans portable and affordable and returns authority to the states. We also must break the insurance company monopolies and allow individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines.