Iowa State Sen. Liz Mathis pushed back last week on Rep. Ashley Hinson’s characterization of congressional Democrats’ budget proposal as “socialism” for, in part, expanding Medicare coverage, saying Hinson was simply using “a political buzzword” to dismiss the popular policy.
During an Iowa Press appearance, Hinson called the proposed budget “the biggest dive towards socialism.” Moderator Kay Henderson followed up to ask if Hinson meant the bill’s universal preschool or childcare provisions were “socialism.”
After name-checking Sen. Bernie Sanders, Hinson specified “unlimited taxpayer spending on community college” and “drastic expansion of Medicare policy” as part of her issues with it.
Included in Democrats’ Medicare proposal is to expand coverage to cover dental, hearing and vision benefits.
“Well, right now we need to be focusing on the sustainability of the program as it stands right now to make sure seniors have the benefits that they can count on,” Hinson said when pressed whether she was opposed to covering those benefits.
Mathis accused Hinson of putting politics ahead of Iowans by calling the proposed budget “socialist,” especially when she included Medicare expansion in that definition.
“This common sense policy—which has bipartisan support from 90% of Americans—would help thousands of Iowa seniors get eye glasses, hearing aids and basic dental work,” Mathis said in a statement. “Hinson called it ‘socialism.’ She dismissed this critical care with a political buzzword straight from Washington.”
Another bill proposed by Democrats in April, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, addresses rising drug costs. It would require the US Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate maximum prices for brand-name drugs that don’t have generics.
The Lower Drug Costs Now Act also changes Medicare pricing by incentivizing manufacturers to keep costs down and lowering the limit for annual out-of-pocket spending.
An August poll done by Data for Progress shows Iowans overwhelmingly support Medicare negotiating lower drug prices.
At a later town hall, Hinson criticized the idea of allowing that negotiation. Instead, Hinson said the focus should be on promoting innovation, which means the development of new drugs.
“The true way to lower drug costs is to increase competition as well as transparency,” she said.
The transparency would concern the amount of advertising pharmaceutical companies do for their products.
“Negotiating for Medicare drug prices isn’t what it’s cracked up to be,” Hinson said. “It’s a cost deferral or a cost shift, it does nothing to actually decrease the price of drugs.”
Instead, Hinson supports a Republican-led bill called HR 19, the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, that caps costs and requires pharmaceutical companies to report how much they spend in advertising, which Hinson blamed for the high prices of drugs.
Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers in the United States are allowed to set drug prices without direct regulation from the government, which leads to Americans paying more for drugs than citizens in other developed countries. The reasoning is often that they need the profits for research and development.
Experts who have studied the issue for years say letting the government negotiate drug prices wouldn’t actually harm the innovation of new drugs because the research and funding for many transformative drugs come from the public and from nonprofits, especially at the most important stages of development.
A study done in 2016 concluded that there’s no obvious relationship between the cost of development and the price of the drug, and that it’s instead driven by an exclusive market. The researchers recommended regulation, more competition for generic drugs and price negotiation as some of the most realistic strategies to lower drug prices.