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Democrat Attacks on Tom Price Expose Their Own Destruction of Medical Device Industry

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This article by Patrick Howley originally appeared at The American Spectator:

President Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, is facing unfair attacks from a Democratic Party and liberal media hoping to undermine Trump’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The line of attack targeting Price is actually counterproductive for Democrats, because it exposes one of the most insidious aspects of the Obamacare disgrace: the complete and utter destruction of American medical technology research over the last eight years.

Right now Price, the Georgia congressman, is nominated to be Terminator of former President Barack Obama’s disastrous health care law. Price established himself as a bulldog Obamacare critic, and his nomination is no mistake: Few other lawmakers can bridge the interest gaps between doctors, insurance companies, medical industry stakeholders and, most importantly, the American people (the American people usually get left out in that equation). Price has innovative ideas and is associated with groups like the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which has shown willingness to stand up in some cases to the pharmaceutical lobby.

But Democrats are hammering Price because he owned some stock in medical companies while in office, at the (gasp) same time that he was voting on issues related to health care (which is totally legal).

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Chuck Schumer is aiming an attack on Price and ranking Finance Committee Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden is calling it a “conflict of interest” and “an abuse of position.” Schumer, Wyden, and their press lackeys are focusing on one transaction in particular: Price’s March 2016 purchase of between $1,001 and $15,000 in stock in Zimmer Biomet, which happened to occur one week before he introduced the HIP Act. Zimmer Biomet is a medical device manufacturer founded in 1927 and based in the great town of Warsaw, Indiana.

The HIP Act of 2016 sought to delay, for two years, a change in the way the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pays hospitals for patients’ knee and hip replacement surgeries. The Obama administration wanted to stop paying for each individual medical product and treatment for the patients but instead just gave some bulk payments to hospitals for the entire “knee and/or hip” thing. Those bulk payments, of course, would have amounted to less money for the hospitals and less money for medical device manufacturers. Essentially, CMS was trying to bilk the medical device industry out of money. The HIP Act never actually went anywhere, let alone became law.

“The reality is that everything I did was ethical, above board, legal, and transparent,” Price said in his confirmation hearing Tuesday before the U.S. Senate.

Am I a big fan of lawmakers owning any stock in companies while in office? No, in theory, I am not. But how can Democrats possibly take the moral high ground here? The party that passed Obamacare without reading it offered government-sanctioned monopolies to insurance companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield that get, in some cases, exclusive domain over the insurance plans of entire state populations. The law’s architect, Jonathan Gruber, openly admitted that Obama lied to the American people by saying people could keep their existing insurance plans and that the law actually had some kind of cost-control element to it.

Then the Obamacare geniuses needed to dig up some revenue somewhere, so they imposed an onerous excise tax on American-based medical device and technology manufacturers, costing 33,000 jobs almost immediately and designating more than 100,000 more jobs for the slaughter or for outsourcing, according to a 2014 trade report. Yep, you read that right. The medical device industry, it was decided by the Obamacare geniuses, would bear the brunt of Obamacare’s failures. When Obama took office, the medical device industry — based primarily in states including Massachusetts and Minnesota — was a world leader. It was one of the few world leaders left in the U.S. private sector. Obama did so much damage to it that even Elizabeth Warren wrote to him asking to get rid of the medical device tax.

In Washington, I am a close contact and ally of the medical device industry, which worked with me to expose so much of the economic destruction caused by the Affordable Care Act. I was told by the industry’s leading trade organization that, for all intents and purposes, medical research and development (or “R & D”) was wiped off the table during the Obama years. Companies could not afford to invest in experimental research. Companies could not afford to do the tests necessary to get their products ready for sale. The market stagnated. And when the medical device market stagnates, patients don’t get the products that they need. Case in point: the only company in the world that specialized in orthopedic equipment for children had to cut product development and suspend hiring.

Democrats are trying to make Price look like a corrupt insider for, who, exactly? The medical device industry? The one industry in the entire health care field that actually makes things to help save people instead of doing things to hurt and mislead people? Let’s be clear: If Tom Price owned stock in the medical device industry, then that stock was not living up to its full potential (to say the least) during the Obamacare dark days. Let’s look at what Zimmer Biomet actually does, according to glassdoor.com: “We design, manufacture and market orthopaedic reconstructive products; sports medicine, biologics, extremities and trauma products; spine, bone healing, craniomaxillofacial and thoracic products; dental implants; and related surgical products.”

The monsters!

What Price did was legal. What Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the Democrats did — mandating Americans to buy costly insurance plans as a boon for insurance mega-monopolies and lying to everybody about how it would all go down — was illegal in so, so, so many ways.

If Democrats want to really talk about the medical device industry, about the amount of money that industry has lost, about the countless lives that have been damaged by layoffs, and about the intentional outsourcing of our medical economy to other countries, then they should keep on flogging this line of attack. I can talk about this issue for days… all the way up to Mr. Price’s rightful confirmation.

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