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Californians Must Reject Scare Tactics, Stand Together In Support Of Innovation

June 6, 2016
This week, the BIO International Convention kicks off in San Francisco. As BIO’s President and CEO, I’m proud to bring this annual event to the Bay Area and talk about biopharmaceutical’s advances in innovation and bringing cures to those afflicted with disease.

Before the campaign season arrives, it’s time to set the record straight about the value of prescription drugs and why insurance companies are demanding that you pay more out of pocket.

Voters in California will soon choose whether or not to enact top-down, government price controls on prescription drugs that the state’s legislative analyst says would not only cost the state more, but also force the government between patients and their doctors.  If this law is enacted, state employees will get to approve the medications available to you and your family.

As Bloomberg reported, the President of the California Medical Association, Dr. Steven Larson called the plan “flawed and unworkable” and said doctors’ “greatest concern” was “the new bureaucratic…approval process that could interfere with patient access to the medicines they need.”

Bureaucrats in state capitals shouldn’t be deciding which medications you receive. That’s simply wrong.

These types of proposals stifle the biopharmaceutical innovation that we need to make the cures of tomorrow. Just look at how far we’ve come:

Twenty years ago, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Today, with biopharmaceutical advances it’s a treatable condition and life expectancy rates are at an all-time high.

Ten years ago, Hepatitis C was a disease that required a lifetime of expensive treatments—or even a liver transplant. Today, our industry has created a cure.

However, many want to restrict patients’ access to these revolutionary treatments and cures.  American health insurers restrict access by discriminating against the sick by creating what they call, “specialty tiers.”  These “specialty tiers” come with higher cost sharing—some as high as 50 percent. Another trick insurers use is to simply refuse coverage of certain treatments until it is almost too late.  A recent investigation by the New York Attorney General showed, insurers refused to cover the Hepatitis C drugs that many patients needed until it’s almost too late.  That is not right.

And yet – even with all this, you’re still paying more for your “insurance.”

Take for example, Blue Shield of California, which was required to refund consumers $82.8 million after overcharging them. The state even revoked Blue Shield’s tax exemption after it was found they had stockpiled surpluses in excess of $4 billion, while still raising customer premiums.

In contrast, last year, the net price for branded drugs increased only 2.8 percent on average. Even the insurers’ own filings show that insurance premium growth, attributed to health spending, is directly driven by spending on hospitals and doctors, not prescription drugs.  In fact, American health insurance companies spend about the same amount on administrative costs as they do for prescription drugs.

From now until Election Day, your televisions will be inundated with ads—paid for by the insurance companies—trying to convince you that the state should approve the prescription drugs you take or that you should pay more to insurers for less coverage.

But I trust that, this November, Californians will reject these scare tactics and stand together in support of the next generation of cures.