New Hampshire Republican Senate candidates call Medicare a failure

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'It's not a legitimate role of government to be involved in health care in any way,' said New Hampshire GOP Senate candidate Bruce Fenton.

Two New Hampshire Republicans seeking their party's nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in the November general election said Wednesday that Medicare is a failure. Retired Army Brigadier Gen. Don Bolduc and investment banker Bruce Fenton argued that the popular program should not be able to negotiate lower prescription drug prices because government is the problem.

Appearing at a primary debate hosted by the right-wing media outlet Newsmax alongside New Hampshire Senate President Chuck Morse and former Londonderry town manager Kevin Smith, Bolduc and Fenton were asked whether a provision in the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act that allows the federal government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies "ultimately helps Americans."

"Listen, anything that the government's involved in is not good and doesn't work, period," the current frontrunner Bolduc replied to applause and cheers. He continued by making false claims about how the system works: "The worse thing about this whole thing is that Medicare doesn't negotiate anything. They do it with third-party insurance companies. So anyone that knows anything about Medicare and what it does, it doesn't do that, right?"

Bolduc then misled viewers about orders issued by former President Donald Trump in 2020 that Trump claimed lowered the price of insulin to $35 out of pocket, but in fact applied to very narrow segments of the population. This included an order issued in December 2020 that according to the Department of Health and Human Services under President Joe Biden would have imposed "excessive administrative costs and burdens" on health centers directed to provide the drug. Bolduc said: "President Trump put in a great executive order that lowered insulin to $35. What did Biden do? He reversed it, and Maggie Hassan supported that. It's terrible! Now it's up over several hundred dollars. That hurts people."

He continued:

Medicare was started in 1965. They've stolen from it ever since. That's what career politicians do. That's what the government does, it steals from people, it taxes them and then doesn't even give them a return on their investment. Medicare, we need to take care of our aging population. Definitely. It needs to be reformed and if we don't reform it, and we don't make it patient-focused, and we don't allow people to be in control of their own health care, medical freedom, then we're just violating our own constitutional rights.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program mostly used by Americans age 65 and older and funded through payroll taxes, provided coverage to more than 60 million people in 2020 — 300,000 of them in New Hampshire.

According to a May 2021 Kaiser Family Foundation report, 94% of Medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age or older said they were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the quality of care they receive.

Asked for his view, Fenton said the government should not be involved in the health care system at all.

Medicare is one of the, it's one of the many things that sounds good, but it isn't. Government corrupts everything that it touches, and there's a huge, huge price of all government programs, and we often forget that because things sound good, they sound like they're going to help people, or we get mistaken that it's compassion or something like that. But really, at the end of the day, these projects are generally corrupt, they reward cronies, and most importantly they're both expensive in terms of the human cost and the regulatory cost and the financial cost, in some cases causing financial ruin for some citizens. But they're also not effective. ... Government is ineffective, and it's not a legitimate role of government to be involved in health care in any way. We shouldn't have them involved in any of this, at all. We should entirely get government out of it and put the hands in the power of the people. That's where it belongs.

 

According to a column written by Rep. Pramila Jayapal and Sen. Bernie Sanders and published by Data for Progress in 2021, polling conducted by the organization and Social Security Works found "a full 83 percent of voters support expanding Medicare to cover hearing, vision, and dental care, including 86 percent of those over the age of 45. That popularity crosses party lines: 89 percent of Democrats, 82 of Independents, and 76 percent of Republicans are in favor." A poll conducted on behalf of the organization Patients for Affordable Drugs Now in April 2022 found overwhelming support for congressional efforts to lower what they consider excessively high drug prices.

The Democratic majorities in Congress voted unanimously on Aug. 7 in the House and Aug. 12 in the Senate to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, with provisions to allow negotiation and to cap out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs and insulin for Medicare recipients. Every single Republican in both chambers opposed the package, which also invested hundreds of billions of dollars in energy and climate change infrastructure and funded affordable health care coverage for three more years.

New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Morse was not asked about the issue at the debate on Wednesday, but told Manchester station WGIR's Chris Ryan on Aug. 18 that he would not have supported the legislation or the drug negotiation provisions because "when the government gets involved, we eliminate choices and that hurts the people in the state of New Hampshire. So, no, I'm against the government getting involved in anything to do with our lives."

In an email following the debate, the New Hampshire Democratic Party responded: "Tonight, Don Bolduc doubled down on his opposition to allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, proving once more that he would stand with Big Pharma over Granite Staters. Allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices is a commonsense solution that will help bring down prescription drug prices across the board and put money back into Granite Staters' pockets."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.