Don’t be duped by dark money ‘Mediscare’ ads | Editorial

Published: Oct. 06, 2021

A dark money group is bombarding New Jersey with fearmongering ads that target Congressmen Frank Pallone, Andy Kim and Tom Malinowski: In big block letters, it falsely suggests they want to cut Medicare. Kim, like the others, got this mailer sent to his house.

“My first reaction was, what in the world are they talking about?” he said.

Democrats aren’t cutting Medicare in their $3.5 trillion plan – they’re expanding it. They’re adding new dental, hearing and vision benefits to help folks like the nearly 20 percent of American seniors who have no teeth left. And they’d cover the cost of this by negotiating lower prices for prescriptions.

So who is lobbing these lies? Thanks to laws that hide the identity of the sponsors, we can’t know for sure, but who could it be aside from Big Pharma?

PhRMA, which advocates for drug companies, refused to answer the question.

Millions of dollars are being spent to deceive seniors into opposing these cost savings, by shadow groups with dirty tactics that don’t have to disclose their donors. It’s a vivid, grotesque example of the distortions of our political system by big money.

“Almost every constituent I’ve spoken to back home, every friend, has seen these. It’s completely saturated,” Malinowski said of the digital ads and mailers.

All we have is a post office box: An address for the group called A Healthy Future, LLC, traces back to a strip mall in Stafford, Virginia. But here’s another clue: The same group ran similar ads last November against then-President Donald Trump, targeting his executive order aimed at lowering prescription drug prices.

The average person is tired of exhaustive fees for dental and hearing care, and for lifesaving medications: Nearly nine in ten Americans support allowing the government to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices. Yet here’s a group that opposes cost savings on prescription drugs, no matter who proposes it, with the means to mount a furious ad campaign that’s in step with an army of Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill. What a mystery.

“It’s worse than misleading,” Pallone said. “It’s false and it’s designed to make us look like we’re the ones who are hurting people, when in reality, we’re trying to help people.”

Big Pharma’s main complaint is that the Democrats’ bill will reduce the money they have for research. But drug companies already earn more than twice the level of profit as the S&P overall – twice the profit of the average company. And they create a monopoly through government patents. “If the government is giving you an exclusive path to something, why can’t you negotiate the price?” Pallone says.

Pharma gives much of its proceeds back to shareholders and spends a lot on marketing. One way to adapt to lower revenues would be to stop doing those things. The federal government should probably step up its roll in funding research too. But there’s no doubt that the current system is broken, throwing money away and leaving seniors without teeth.

And why not step into the light and have an honest debate about this, instead of hiding behind a strip mall? “I’m not going to do business with a bunch of companies that pretend to be reasonable when they come into my office and then, hiding behind an anonymous LLC, contribute to the pollution of lies that is coursing in our democracy,” Malinowski said.

“This is the kind of politics that people hate the most,” Kim agreed. “Stand behind what it is that you’re doing, instead of hiding behind the shadows.”

If your position is defensible on the merits, why resort to deceptive tactics and scaring seniors?

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published this page in News and Politics 2021-10-07 02:01:36 -0700