Late last night the United States House of Representatives passed the Senate Health Care Bill that has been debated for nearly a year. Like the clear majority of Americans who oppose the bill, I think this was the wrong thing to do and will ultimately be a disaster. I realize there are 30 million Americans without health insurance, but they will remain without health insurance for the next 4 years, so it is hard to believe that anything will change for the better for the uninsured in the near term. The debate also seems to completely ignore the 270 million Americans who have health insurance. Yes, costs are rising and need to be reigned in, but creating another entitlement is the wrong thing to do, particularly when Social Security and Medicare alone are collectively going to already be in the red to the tune of $50 trillion in coming years. See Statement of Judd Gregg (R-NH). But at least BIO was able to get provisions into the bill that will truly spur biotech innovation.
Buying insurance across state lines, opening government funded clinics for the uninsured, elimination of third party payers and giving tax credits to individuals to purchase insurance and health care all would have worked to lower costs and drive market forces so people would demand quality for a fair price. It would also have assisted the uninsured. I fear we have put our foot on the accelerator and are heading for a cliff. This spending is simply not sustainable. A jobs plan and stimulating economic activity by lowering taxes would have created jobs, increased tax revenue and provided more health care. But elections have consequences.
Notwithstanding the above, I am conflicted in my feelings. It seems that one of the deals included in the Health Care Bill, provisions aimed at biotechnology, are unquestionably good. This is not the type of deal where residents of Nebraska get the rest of us to pay for them, or where seniors in Florida get to keep prescription coverage courtesy of the federal government while seniors everywhere else lose. The provisions favorable to the biotech community will spur innovation, lead to new cures and undoubtedly prolong life. If only Congress could have passed these provisions and scrapped the rest.
In any event, what follows is the statement released by Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) President and CEO Jim Greenwood released the following statement after passage of “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009” by the U.S. House of Representatives:
The health care reform bill passed by the House of Representatives last night includes key provisions that provide real solutions for our nation’s health care challenges and real hope for patients living with debilitating diseases such as cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, HIV/AIDS and many rare diseases. These provisions will lead to new and improved treatments, cures, and cost-savings for patients, while driving job growth in our industry and maintaining our nation’s global leadership in biotechnology innovation.
The bill includes a historic provision which creates a pathway to enable the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve biosimilars. Thanks to the leadership of Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Joe Barton (R-TX) in the House, and the late Senator Ted Kennedy and others in the Senate, patients living with debilitating diseases will have expanded access to safe and effective cutting-edge medical therapies at lower costs. Additionally, according to the Congressional Budget Office, this provision will save patients tens of billions of dollars over the next decade. Moreover, this provision includes the incentives necessary to attract the massive investment required to speed the discovery and development of the next generation of breakthrough therapies and potential cures for the world’s most debilitating diseases. This language establishes equity with the Hatch-Waxman regime, which spurred the availability of the generics market for traditional pharmaceuticals, while bringing the same benefits of increased access, lower costs and expanded competition.
The bill also includes a critical provision that will provide some financial relief to research-intensive, small biotechnology companies that continue to suffer from tight credit markets. The Therapeutic Discovery Project Tax Credit included in the bill will help offset a portion of the resources spent on therapeutic development activities, including hiring scientists and conducting clinical studies. The provision will help these companies continue their groundbreaking research that likely will lead to new therapies to treat patients living with chronic or acute diseases and help reduce long-term health care costs. This provision promises to save and create thousands of jobs across our nation.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Congress to ensure passage of the reconciliation bill and effective implementation.
Congratulations to BIO for ably representing its members and getting these key provisions into the bill. If Jim Greenwood and his team represented the entire innovation community I think the US patent and innovation policy would be in a much better place.