Political insiders Donna L. Brazile and Michael Steele spoke to NASP members about which issues may concern them most and getting involved in the political process.
A pair of well-known political insiders spoke to specialty pharmacists Wednesday to discuss the upcoming presidential election and what the outcome could potentially mean for health care legislation. Veteran Democratic strategist Donna L. Brazile and former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele remotely shared a keynote address during the National Association of Specialty Pharmacy (NASP) 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo Virtual Experience.1
“I believe health care is a right. What we’ve seen the last 6 months is people losing their jobs, losing their health care,” Brazile said. “This is one of the issues that might drive people to the polls in the fall.”
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has placed more of a focus on federal health care agencies than in past presidential election years, as well as pharmaceutical developers, Brazile said. The race for a vaccine that can prevent the condition and curb the spread of COVID-19 is a key issue.1
“There are going to be a boatload of Americans that are going to be way suspicious of any vaccine that comes out before mid-next year. They just are, because the political narrative around this process has been so polluted and so distorted,” Steele said.
“This is an opportunity for NASP and other organizations in respective fields related to health care to step in and to get together with the Problem Solvers Caucus,” Steele said.
The bipartisan group is a combination of conservatives, moderates, and liberals who are trying to find solutions, he noted.1
The caucus, made up of 25 Democrats and 25 Republicans, is led by co-chairs Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Tom Reed (R-NY). Its work includes the March to Common Ground framework, announced September 15, 2020, which aims to break gridlock on the latest COVID-19 federal relief package and encourages negotiators to work on an agreement. Using the framework, the caucus is calling for new stimulus funds and reallocation of previously appropriated funding through the CARES Act to key categories such as COVID-19 testing and health care.2
Steele said NASP members can help develop legislation related to health care issues that include pre-existing conditions and a COVID-19 vaccine.1
“Be on the front end of pushing the country on these issues. Get out there and raise your voices about what you’re seeing about potential impact of cost in the COVID space on the consumers out there,” Steele said. “This is the opportunity for you to play a real important role.”
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, other health care issues that may be affected by legislation include mail-order medications and prescription drug costs, according to the analysts. Steele said these issues will determine how some voters cast their ballots.
“You have your customers, your clients that get their medicines by mail. They get their health needs met through the postal system” he told NASP meeting attendees.
Regarding drug pricing, Brazile said one candidate’s drug pricing policy focuses on Medicare negotiations and restricting price increases, whereas the other candidate has proposed a range of administrative action to restrict drug prices and to redesigning Medicare’s Part D benefit.1
“Both candidates have made prescriptions drugs part a focus of their health care agenda, but they’re different, slightly, in areas of emphasis” Brazile said.
According to Steele, how policy might change for the health care sector is “night and day” between which candidate is chosen by voters to be president for the next 4 years. Regardless, he said, having debates about what our country’s health care system should be, is healthy for the political process and pending legislation.1
In a concluding statement, Steele urged NASP members to participate in the political system.1
“Please, get those ballots and vote,” he said.