Tom Hebert

ATR Supports Rep. Chip Roy's "Coronavirus Regulatory Repeal Act"

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, May 4th, 2020, 2:19 PM PERMALINK

Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas) has introduced H.R. 6691, the “Coronavirus Regulatory Repeal Act of 2020,” legislation that permanently repeals regulations that have been waived or suspended during the Coronavirus pandemic and creates a regulatory review commission for Congress to reinstate rules if they are truly needed.

Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges its swift passage.

Instead of using the crisis to consolidate more power in the federal government’s hands, President Trump and his administration have made deregulation a central part of the Coronavirus response. State and local governments have followed suit, leading to the suspension of over 400 rules and regulations nationwide.

ATR has kept a running list of these waived regulations, which you can view here.

Rep. Roy’s legislation would permanently waive federal regulations that have been suspended during the pandemic after the emergency period expires. The bill also establishes regulatory review commissions that are tasked with reviewing the necessity of each suspended regulation. If for some reason the regulation is truly needed in order for agencies to function properly, Congress can reinstate the rule after recommendation from the commissions.

Regulatory relief on the federal level has streamlined our national response to the Coronavirus. For example:

  • The FDA has given states the power to allow their laboratories to develop COVID-19 diagnostics and testing. This step waives the requirement of labs pursuing Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, allowing states to take the responsibility for tests and diagnostics used within their borders.
  • The Department of Transportation has exempted commercial truck drivers transporting emergency medical supplies from regulations limiting how many hours they can drive. This rule change gave needed flexibility to drivers that transport goods like necessary medical supplies, testing equipment, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and food required for emergency restocking of stores.
  • The Trump administration has used its executive authority to temporarily cover telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries during the pandemic.  This change allows patients to interact with their doctors via phone or video conferencing,  at no additional cost, covering commonly used services like Facetime and Skype.
  • Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has waived telehealth laws that prevented doctors from treating patients in other states. This important step allows out-of-state doctors to treat patients in areas with high demand while greatly reducing the risk of transmission from in-person visits.
     

The Coronavirus Regulatory Repeal Act creates an important mechanism to build on this regulatory reform by getting rid of the countless regulations that were never necessary in the first place. As the country recovers from the pandemic, cutting this onerous red tape permanently will foster innovation and help Americans continue to access the care they need.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


RSC Healthcare Framework Will Strengthen America's Coronavirus Response

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, April 27th, 2020, 2:40 PM PERMALINK

In a letter to Congressional Leadership, Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Mike Johnson (LA-04) and RSC Health Care Task Force Chairman Roger Marshall (KS-01) outlined a series of free market reforms that should be enacted to help our healthcare system weather the storm of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, the RSC plan expands access to health savings accounts for American patients, bolsters America's medical supply chain by rejecting protectionism and encouraging innovation, and builds on the Trump Administration's successful deregulatory response to the Coronavirus. 

Expanding Access to Health Savings Accounts

The RSC plan calls for temporarily suspending the requirement that health savings accounts (HSA) must be tied to a high-deductible health plan (HDHP), an idea originally proposed by Senator Ted Cruz and Congressman Ted Budd in the Pandemic Healthcare Access Act.

HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts that individuals can use to pay for qualified medical expenses. Since they were created in 2004, HSAs have become a popular and successful vehicle for individuals to spend and save their own money for a wide array of healthcare needs. Approximately 30 million American families and individuals use HSAs.

Currently, there is a mandate that any American wanting to open or contribute to an HSA must be on a high-deductible health plan.

The RSC’s recommendation would pause this mandate in order to help mitigate the pandemic by allowing Americans in Medicare, Affordable Care Act health plans, TRICARE, the VA, Indian Health Service and any employer plan to use HSAs. It will also help individuals pay for their deductible or any increased health care costs, allow HSA funds to pay for direct primary care, and allow telemedicine below the deductible.

Suspending the HSA HDHP mandate will help strengthen public health and ensure Americans have access to the care they need at a time of self-quarantining and social distancing to mitigate the spread of the disease.

[See also: Coalition Supports Senator Cruz’s Pandemic Healthcare Access Act]

Supporting the Medical Supply Chain by Rejecting Protectionism

The RSC approach takes several steps to protect our medical supply chain by rejecting protectionism and safeguarding against foreign freeloading.

The plan recommends the appointment of a Pharmaceutical Chief Negotiator at the United States Trade Representative (USTR). This official would act as a watchdog against protectionist measures that could disrupt supply chains or freeload on American medical innovative investments. The negotiator would have enforcement authority to take action against foreign governments that devalue and impose price controls on American innovation.

Instead of forcibly localizing supply chains in the United States with a distortionary government mandate, the RSC plan removes regulatory barriers to incentivize manufacturers to produce drugs, pharmaceutical devices, and medical devices in America. The plan also allows these businesses to fully and immediately expense their investments in research and development and physical capital.

Ultimately, these approaches safeguard the medical supply chain from protectionism and encourage American innovation.

Continue the Trump Administration’s Deregulatory Success

Deregulation has been central to the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 response. All told, dozens of federal rules and regulations have been waived, and over 300 have been waived when state and local rules are included (A full list can be found at www.atr.org/rules)

In the healthcare space, President Trump and administration officials have taken steps to give patients and providers much-needed flexibility during the Coronavirus pandemic.

For instance, the administration has expanded telehealth services. Telehealth services are now covered for Medicare beneficiaries, meaning that at-risk seniors can receive care from their doctor through video conferencing and telephone at no additional cost. Allowing Medicare beneficiaries to receive a wide range of services via telemedicine reduces their risk of exposure to the disease and allows providers to focus on the most critical patients during this health crisis.

The administration has also taken steps to allow physicians and other medical personnel to operate across state lines in order to ensure that those who need care are able to receive it, no matter where they live.

The RSC plan builds on this deregulatory success by recommending:

  • Suspending the ban on new physician-owned hospitals (POHs) to expand capacity to deal with the rapid rise in demand for hospital services.
  • Encourage states to suspend certificate of need laws that limit the ability of hospitals to expand capacity.
  • Direct the FAA to relax federal restrictions on drones that deliver medical supplies.
  • Build on the CARES Act and other deregulatory actions to further expand access to telemedicine and encourage licensing reciprocity to allow providers to practice telemedicine across state lines.
     

Taken together, the RSC healthcare recommendations will put patients first, give providers important flexibility in dealing with the crisis, and put the United States at the forefront of developing a COVID-19 cure.

Photo Credit: Jim Grey


Greedy Trial Lawyers Should Not Be Allowed To Cash In On Coronavirus

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020, 8:00 AM PERMALINK

The Coronavirus pandemic has completely upended normal life in the United States.

Unfortunately, trial lawyers are already lining up in droves to bring lawsuits against essential businesses and services on the frontlines of the Coronavirus response. If unchecked, these trial lawyers stand to make a killing by targeting the vital industries at the most risk of COVID-19 exposure. 

Worse yet, these lawsuits could bring down vulnerable businesses, which are already struggling to pay their employees and meet basic expenses during the pandemic. The last thing that these essential businesses need are frivolous lawsuits. 

To prevent this predatory litigation, lawmakers should include liability protection for frontline industries in the next Coronavirus relief package. 

As Americans are sheltering in place, essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, gas stations, and in limited cases restaurants, have stayed open and have exercised abundant caution in protecting employees and customers. 

For instance, grocery stores across the country have limited the number of customers that come in and out of the store, and mandated the use of face masks for customers and employees. Companies like Amazon are also enhancing sanitation procedures and distributing personal protective gear to employees. 

No matter how careful these businesses may be, the unfortunate reality is that some localized outbreaks could happen where people still gather. 

Even so, it is clear that companies are going above and beyond the call of duty in keeping people safe from infection, especially taking into account the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the fact that there is no cure. 

The looming threat of these suits is affecting the ability of frontline workers to help the nation through this crisis. Doctors and nurses are afraid to make tough healthcare decisions, and hospitals and nursing homes are afraid that the quality of their care will come under attack.

The greed of trial lawyers, who will try to make a quick buck by demonizing the good-faith efforts of frontline industries, threatens the ability of industries to effectively respond to the Coronavirus.

Trial lawyers are already swarming to sue the owners of cruise ships, alleging that the industry did not do enough to protect passengers. Frivolous lawsuits aside, the cruise industry is currently losing $92 million and 620 total American jobs each day of the pandemic. If the cruise industry were shut down for a year, 343,000 total American jobs would be lost, along with $51 billion in economic loss. 

Walmart is also being targeted for supposed negligence, even though the company recently ordered all of its 1.5 million employees to wear masks.

In reality, it is virtually impossible for an individual to prove that he or she caught the Coronavirus from any specific place, especially considering the widespread impact of the disease and the relative ease of transmission. Despite this, all trial lawyers have to do to win these cases is persuade a jury that is already scared of the Coronavirus and aware of its universal damage, as tort expert Victor Schwartz has argued. 

If these specious lawsuits are allowed to prevail, no essential industry is off limits. 

In any forthcoming Coronavirus relief package, lawmakers must include liability protection for essential industries from frivolous lawsuits. 

This is a bipartisan issue – Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) have spoken out in favor of such reforms. 

There is precedent for such a measure – in the CARES Act, lawmakers included liability protection for respiratory devices approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 

If left unchecked, the greed of trial lawyers will not only hamper the Coronavirus response, it will upend America’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Frivolous lawsuits will raise healthcare prices, reduce access to treatment and care, hamper the development of a COVID-19 cure, and raise prices on essential goods and services that Americans need to get through the crisis. 

The solution is simple: Congress needs to step in to stop trial lawyers from cashing in on the Coronavirus tragedy. 

Photo Credit: Wesley Fryer


Virginia Assembly Should Reject Governor Northam’s Municipal Election Power Grab

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, April 20th, 2020, 2:00 PM PERMALINK

Scandal-tarred Governor Ralph Northam (D-Va.) is using the Coronavirus crisis as an excuse to enact a tyrannical proposal that will disenfranchise Virginia voters and consolidate his control over local government. 

Northam has proposed an amendment to the budget bill that will move Virginia’s local elections from May 15th to November 3rd, a move that will affect 115 municipalities across the state. On April 22, the Virginia General Assembly will hold an up-or-down vote on the budget.

The Virginia General Assembly should reject this proposal.

Virginia’s municipal elections are held in May because the Commonwealth is one of the few states that allows citizens to hold elected office as a federal employee. As such, candidates for local office run without a partisan designation, which helps local officials put partisanship aside and focus on local issues affecting the community. 

Moving the May election to November would upend this process and inject partisanship into the electoral process. Not only would nonpartisan municipal candidates have to run on a ballot with partisan candidates in a presidential year, this extension would give Northam time to recruit a slate of hand-picked liberals to run against candidates currently running in the May election. 

In the process, Northam is calling for the destruction of ballots that have already been cast, affecting more than 811,417 registered voters across the state. This blatantly disenfranchises the thousands of Virginians that have already cast ballots for the May election. 

Essentially, Northam is telling thousands of his constituents that their votes don’t matter. 

Northam’s proposal also raises constitutional questions and risks delegitimizing local government. Incumbent councilmembers are currently serving a term that ends on June 30th. By moving the election to November, Northam is unilaterally extending their time in office beyond the term they were duly elected to serve. This would also force lawmakers that did not seek reelection to stay in office beyond June 30th. 

To justify all of this, Northam claims that moving the May election to November will protect Virginians from COVID-19 and align with CDC recommendations on social distancing. The math tells a different story. 

Take the City of Fairfax as an example. As of April 15, 1,877 absentee ballot by mail requests have been processed, and ballots are in the mail. If we assume equal turnout to May 2018, which saw approximately 3,000 votes cast, we have 1,123 voters left to vote in this election. Assuming they all vote in person, when you divide them by 6 precincts, you get 187 voters per precinct. Divide that by 12 hours, you get 16 voters per hour that can be processed with safe social and physical distancing. 

To be clear, voters and poll workers alike should be vigilant about practicing social distancing and protecting themselves from the Coronavirus. Despite these concerns, basic math shows that municipalities can strike a proper balance between safe processing of voters and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

Predictably, Northam’s despotic proposal has caused a bipartisan uproar. 

A group of Republican legislators from Shenandoah Valley released a joint statement condemning the Governor’s blatant power grab. All expressed concern about COVID-19 while stressing the multiple problems with moving the municipal election to November. The legislators expressed openness to postponing the date to June 23rd, the same date as the Virginia primary. 

Democrats are also chafing at Northam’s imperious proposal. 

The left-leaning Virginia Municipal League (VML) opposes moving the municipal election to November, saying that localities should decide whether to hold the election in May or postpone. In a letter to the Governor, VML President Thomas R. Smiegel Jr. outlines the numerous problems with moving the municipal election, including the numerous constitutional questions that would arise if this proposal becomes law. Democratic State Senator Chap Peterson has also expressed concerns with unilaterally moving the election, arguing that localities should make the decision for themselves. 

The bottom line is obvious: the Northam proposal to move municipal elections to November is a totalitarian power-grab masquerading as a public health measure. By postponing the May election, Northam strips localities of the right to manage their own affairs and injects toxic partisanship into council government. In the process, Northam would rip up ballots that voters have already cast, disenfranchising thousands of Virginians. 

Ultimately, the Virginia General Assembly should reject Northam’s proposal to move the municipal elections to November.  

Photo Credit: VCU Capital News Service


Inspector General Report Exonerates Mnuchin's Handling of Trump Tax Returns

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, April 13th, 2020, 12:55 PM PERMALINK

An inspector general report released Friday exonerates Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin of all wrongdoing in his handling of President Trump’s tax returns. 

The left has been obsessed with weaponizing the IRS to release Trump’s tax returns, even going so far as to sue the Treasury Department to enforce a previous subpoena against Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

In the report, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations Sally Luttrell wrote that the inquiry “...determined Treasury’s receipt, handling, and responses to Chairman Neal’s letters and request followed the general process with the occasional change of Treasury officials involved.” 

The report also concluded that there was no outside influence on the process apart from a letter by Trump's attorney: “Outside of the unsolicited letter received by Treasury from William Consovoy and the letters from Representative Brady and Senator Wyden, there was no indication from the interviews we conducted, or from our review of emails, of any other unsolicited opinions or attempts to influence the process.”

For months, the left has been on a vicious smear campaign against Mnuchin for refusing to accede to their ridiculous demands. 

In a recent Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) accused Mnuchin of “staggering lies,” said that Mnuchin was “stonewalling” the left’s demands, and claimed Mnuchin was “breaking the law.” 

The Inspector General report makes it clear that Pascrell’s denunciations are completely baseless. 

The fact is, the left’s obsession with releasing the president’s tax returns is unprecedented. Historically, Congress has sought taxpayer information to assist in drafting tax legislation. 

In this case, Democrats are clearly seeking the president’s tax returns in an attempt to embarrass a political opponent. Petty partisanship is the left’s only motivation here.

Ever since they lost the 2016 election, Democrats have been frothing at the mouth to expose the President’s tax returns. During the 2018 midterm elections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) bragged that exposing the President’s tax returns “is one of the first things [the Democrat House would] do — that’s the easiest thing in the world. That’s nothing.”

Millions of Americans trust the IRS to handle their sensitive financial information discreetly and legitimately. 

Forcing the IRS to release the president’s tax returns would be a grave violation of the public trust, and could open up every American’s data to the whims of the left’s political vendettas. 

The sad truth is that Democrats are willing to weaponize the IRS just to release the president’s tax returns. The recent Inspector General report shows that Mnuchin has handled this situation appropriately, unlike Congressional Democrats.

It is time for all Americans to stand up and defend this president from the left’s unprecedented and unconstitutional demands. Join ATR in stopping the Democrats’ overreach in trying to get access to President Trump’s tax return by clicking HERE

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Reason Report Shows America’s Drug Supply Is Not Dependent on China

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, April 9th, 2020, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the establishment media has touted an eye-popping statistic: 80 percent of America’s pharmaceutical drug supply comes from China. 

Understandably, this shocking claim has stoked fears that China is actively working to undermine our response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and could block our access to prescription drugs at any time. Some experts have even warned that China could degrade the quality of our antibiotics, or worse yet, put lethal contaminants in them. 

The only problem? The 80 percent statistic is fake news. 

A recent Reason report blows the doors off of this shocking claim and traces the misinformation back to its origin, a misreading of a government report. You can read the full report here

To start, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not track the percentage of drugs that come from other countries, making it impossible to say with certainty how much actually comes from China or anywhere else. 

This has not stopped the establishment press from breathlessly fear mongering over this false claim, which the Reason report tracks in great detail. 

In December, Politico published a piece claiming that U.S. policymakers were worried that China could “weaponize” its drug exports in a trade war. The piece claimed that "In all, 80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made in China," and linked to a press release from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). 

The press release actually says that 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) are produced abroad, revealing that Politico misinterpreted “abroad” to mean “China.” The press release links to a 2016 GAO report, which says that 80 percent of API are made in more than 150 countries around the world. That is a huge difference from the fake news that the media has reported. 

As it turns out, the FDA tracks manufacturing facilities that export drugs to America, not the percentage of the U.S. drug supply that comes from other countries. An October FDA report shows a diverse supply chain: of the 2,000 facilities that provide pharmaceutical drugs to America, 230 are in China, 510 are in the U.S., and 1,048 are in the rest of the world. 

Reason also points out that in 2018, the U.S. imported more than $115 billion of finished pharmaceutical products, only $1.5 billion of which came from China. 

So, it looks like the establishment media has gotten the data exactly backwards on America’s reliance on China for pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, this fake news has infected the policymaking process as lawmakers look to impose price controls on pharmaceuticals. 

Some policymakers have proposed a “Buy American” mandate on prescription drugs, which would place onerous and unnecessary sourcing requirements on medicines purchased with federal dollars. Under this proposal, federal agencies would be forced to purchase “American-made” vaccines, medicines, and raw materials. 

The fact is, drug manufacturers have many valid reasons for producing their products all around the globe, like labor cost considerations and availability of raw materials. A Buy American mandate would upend this supply chain by requiring manufacturers to find new sourcing in the U.S., a substantial undertaking that could take years to implement. 

Proponents claim that such a mandate would restore American jobs and protect our access to drugs. In reality, estimates show that the cost of manufacturing drugs could be up to five times higher under a Buy America regime. This would lead to higher drug costs and reduced access for American patients. 

A Buy American mandate could also lead to retaliatory actions from other countries in a moment where demand for medical innovation is at its highest. Instead of warping the supply chain amidst a global pandemic, lawmakers should advocate efforts to abolish rules and requirements overseas that compel local sourcing to the disadvantage of U.S. manufacturers. 

In sum, the false 80 percent statistic is an excellent case study in how misinformation travels and influences the policymaking process. Instead of using a false statistic to try and solve a problem that doesn’t exist, lawmakers should reject all efforts to impose distortionary price controls and harmful sourcing requirements on medicine. 

Photo Credit: Stock Catalog - Flickr


American Companies Are Stepping Up To The Plate During Coronavirus

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, April 6th, 2020, 11:30 AM PERMALINK

In response to the Coronavirus health crisis, American businesses are working to ensure the American people obtain basic necessities and critical medical supplies.

All across the country, companies large and small are donating supplies and retrofitting facilities to produce masks, ventilators, and other medical equipment. The healthcare industry is working around the clock at a record pace to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and ensure Americans are getting the care they need. Technology companies are making it possible for millions of workers to videoconference and work remotely, as well as providing critical support for frontline healthcare workers. 

Despite the extreme economic hardships that the Coronavirus has brought, the private sector is working hard to help Americans in need.

The Healthcare Industry Is Working Overtime to Ensure Americans Are Getting Care

Healthcare companies are working at record pace to develop a Coronavirus vaccine and manufacturers already have numerous clinical trials underway to develop treatments. In the meantime, pharmaceutical companies are providing financial support and donating supplies to patients and organizations around the world. For example:

  • Bristol Myers Squibb: providing financial support to healthcare workers, patient advocacy organizations, and community-based organizations that serve vulnerable populations.

  • GlaxoSmithKline: donating surplus reagents to countries to support diagnostic testing as well as allowing employees with medical expertise to provide support to frontline healthcare workers and governments.

  • Johnson and Johnson: over $3.7 million donated in personal protective equipment for frontline healthcare workers.

  • Merck: over 800,000 masks donated for healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey.   

Health plans are also stepping up to ensure American patients don’t have to worry about paying for Coronavirus-related health expenses. For instance: 

  • Aetna: waiving co-pays for all diagnostic COVID-19 testing. 

  • Cigna: covering all costs related to COVID-19 treatment. Previously, the carrier announced that they would cover all costs related to Coronavirus testing.

  • Humana: covering COVID-19 testing as well as providing financial and administrative relief for healthcare providers.

The response of the U.S. healthcare industry to the Coronavirus stands in stark contrast to countries with government-run healthcare that are buckling under the strain of unprecedented demand. If anything, the response of single-payer countries to this crisis shows the fatal flaws of the so-called “Medicare for All” model. 

Companies Are Retrofitting Facilities and Donating Supplies

All across the country, companies that don’t normally produce medical supplies are retrofitting facilities to produce masks, ventilators, and other equipment necessary to fight COVID-19. Some companies are donating millions of masks globally to frontline healthcare workers in need. Examples include:

  • Amazon has added an extra 100,000 jobs to help millions of Americans get the household supplies and groceries they need from the safety of their homes. Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos also made a $100 million donation to Feeding America, the largest American nonprofit focused on food security. 

  • Anheuser-Busch, an American brewery, is beginning to produce and distribute bottles of hand sanitizer.

  • Apple will produce 1 million face shields per week for medical workers. Apple has also donated 20 million N95 masks to governments and hospitals. 

  • Ford is beginning to build ventilators. Ford joined with GE Healthcare to build ventilators. Together, these companies plan to produce 50,000 ventilators in 100 days.

  • General Motors is beginning to build ventilators. GM has partnered with Ventec Life Systems, and expects to help the company produce 10,000 ventilators a month using a retrofitted facility in Indiana.

  • SoftBank, a Japanese holding company, is donating 1.4 million respirators to the state of New York.

Local companies and small businesses are also stepping in by recruiting volunteers to produce masks and other equipment:

  • Hickey Freeman, a clothing retailer in Rochester, New York, has dedicated its operations to producing masks for local hospitals and beyond. More than 7,000 volunteers have contacted the company asking to help, and they soon will be able to produce hundreds of thousands of masks a week.

  • iPromo, a promotional materials company in Chicago, Illinois, is using its sourcing relationships in China to buy masks and other medical supplies. In just five days, the company leveraged these relationships into a new platform called iHealth, where hospitals and pharmacies can order supplies.

  • Shine Distillery and Grill, a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, is producing hand sanitizer from alcohol usually used to make vodka and other spirits.

Technology Companies Are Keeping Americans Connected More Than Ever

Technology companies are also committing an unprecedented amount of money and computing resources towards keeping the medical supply chain afloat. Wireline and wireless broadband networks are responding to Covid-19 by keeping the networks running smoothly, supporting displaced customers, and committing valuable resources to the fight against the virus.

Industry partners IBM, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and Hewlett Packard have collaborated to create the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, a project that will commit “an unprecedented amount of computing power—16 systems with more than 330 petaflops, 775,000 CPU cores, 34,000 GPUs, and counting — to help researchers everywhere better understand COVID-19, its treatments and potential cures.”

Technology companies are also helping ordinary Americans get through this crisis by waiving late fees, providing unlimited data for users, and helping employees stay afloat with expanded compensation programs. Examples include: 

  • AT&T: waiving late fees and suspending termination of services for customers unable to pay bills due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

  • Comcast: providing unlimited data to customers for no extra charge. Comcast is also waiving late fees and not disconnecting service for customers unable to pay their bills. 

  • Charter: offering free Spectrum internet and WiFi access for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students, as well as educators. Charter will not disconnect customers unable to pay their bills. 

  • Verizon: implementing an enhanced compensation program for employees who need to work with customers in person during the pandemic. Verizon is also waiving late fees and cancelations for customers 

  • T-Mobile: providing 60 days of unlimited data to all mobile customers, dedicating more resources to low-income customers, and launching a $15/month plan to lower costs for consumers. 

[See also: Tech & Telecom Networks Support America through COVID-19 via Digital Liberty] 

Despite the unprecedented economic calamity that the Coronavirus pandemic has caused, businesses large and small are pitching in to help get the United States through this crisis.  

Photo Credit: Adam


Coronavirus Pandemic Shows Fatal Flaws of Socialized Medicine

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, March 30th, 2020, 11:20 AM PERMALINK

In recent weeks, radical leftist politicians have exploited the Coronavirus pandemic to push their vision of government-run healthcare. 

Democrat Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) recently tweeted that the Coronavirus crisis would be a “great time” for implementing the Medicare for All government takeover of healthcare. 

Not to be outdone, avowed socialist and 2020 Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said that his main takeaway from the pandemic is that it has “never been more important…[to pass] Medicare for All.” 

The left has the situation completely backwards – we would be no better off with socialized healthcare.

Countries with government-run healthcare have been unable to contain the pandemic. If anything, the response of single-payer countries to this crisis shows the fatal flaws of the Medicare for All model. 

Sanders claims that countries with socialized medicine are uniquely equipped to effectively contain a Coronavirus-style pandemic. 

This would be news to people in countries with government-run healthcare.

In normal times, single-payer systems have insufficient resources, understaffed and overstuffed hospitals, and long waiting lines for patients seeking treatment. At a time when demand sharply increases in response to a pandemic like COVID-19, all of these problems are exacerbated.

In Great Britain, just 8 out of 1,600 doctors surveyed said that Great Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) was up to the task of dealing with the pandemic. 

The problems plaguing Britain’s healthcare system predate the Coronavirus. In late 2019, the NHS was short 10,000 doctors and 43,000 nurses, with 9 in 10 NHS bosses saying that staffing issues presented a danger to patients. Britain also has over 4.5 million Britons currently waiting for hospitalization, a number that will only increase as the Coronavirus continues to spread. 

Canada’s single-payer model has also been unable to contain the pandemic. As cases rise, experts at the University of Toronto project that 35 to 70 percent of Canadians could be infected by COVID-19, and hospitals are already operating at capacity. Canada’s healthcare problems predate the pandemic – in 2017, Canadians had to wait a record 21.2 weeks to receive treatment from a specialist after being referred by their general practitioner. These long waiting lines have a debilitating effect on the health of Canadians patients, especially those with complex medical needs and disabilities.   

Sanders has also argued that a government-run system would make it easier to have people tested and treated for the Coronavirus. Predictably, Sanders is ignoring how America’s free market healthcare system is engaging with the private sector to curb this crisis. 

Two of the largest private labs in the country, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp, will soon be able to produce 300,000 COVID-19 tests per week. 

Pharmaceutical companies are also stepping up to the plate to contain the crisis. Usually, it takes years of rigorous trials and testing to develop a vaccine, but time is drastically limited in the midst of a global pandemic. Manufacturers and scientists are working at a record pace to get a Coronavirus cure out the door and in the hands of patients. 

All health insurers will cover the cost of lab tests and visits to providers for Coronavirus screening. American patients will not have to pay a penny out of pocket to get a test. 

In response to an N95 mask shortage, American companies are stepping up to fill the void. Merck & Company recently delivered 500,000 masks to New York City Emergency Management. Harbor Freight is donating its entire supply of N95 masks and other critical equipment to hospitals in the communities where they have stores. 

Nationally, companies are retrofitting facilities to produce critical medical supplies. Hanes, a clothing company, is retrofitting large portions of their plants to produce masks. Apple is donating millions of masks globally to help contain the crisis, and GM and Ford are modifying facilities to produce medical equipment and ventilators. Anheuser Busch is also beginning to use its network to mass-produce hand sanitizer. 

Countries with single-payer healthcare systems struggled to treat patients before the pandemic – these problems are only exacerbated by a large influx of patients. Government-run healthcare systems do nothing to help contain public health crises like the Coronavirus. In fact, problems like understaffing and supply shortages may make the crisis worse. 

Photo Credit: katie chao and ben muessig


CARES Act Repeals Obamacare Medicine Cabinet Tax

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, March 26th, 2020, 4:54 PM PERMALINK

Another Obamacare tax on the middle class bites the dust

In a win for over 26 million Americans with a Health Savings Account (HSA) and the 35 million with a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act repeals Obamacare’s onerous Medicine Cabinet Tax. 

The Obamacare Medicine Cabinet Tax prohibits Americans from using HSAs or FSAs to purchase thousands of over the counter medicines like cold and flu drugs, allergy medication, children’s fever relievers, and menstrual cramp relief medication. Under the tax, only prescription medicines qualified as an HSA/FSA expense.

The CARES Act strikes the last sentence of sub-paragraph A of Sec. 223(d)(2) in the tax code to remove this restriction. 

Upon President Trump’s signature, Americans will be able to purchase thousands of over the counter medical products using pre-tax dollars, a big help for cash-strapped households.

The bill also allows Americans to use pre-tax dollars for the purchase of menstrual products, defined as a “tampon, pad, liner, cup, sponge, or similar product used by individuals with respect to menstruation or other genital-tract secretions.”

HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts that individuals can use to pay for qualified medical expenses. Since they were created in 2004, HSAs have become a popular and successful vehicle for individuals to spend and save their own money for a wide array of healthcare needs.

FSAs are employer-sponsored accounts that individuals can use to pay for medical expenses. 

The Medicine Cabinet Tax was one of the many Obamacare tax increases on the middle class and a violation of the Obama-Biden pledge not to raise any tax on any American making less than $250,000 per year.

By forcing Americans with FSAs and HSAs to use post-tax dollars to purchase these necessary items, Obamacare raised taxes on these households by $8.5 billion over a ten year period.

By repealing Obamacare’s costly and onerous Medicine Cabinet Tax, the CARES Act provides important flexibility and tax relief for middle-class Americans that use HSAs or FSAs to pay for medical expenses. 

Photo Credit: Ben Schumin


Trump Admin Announces That Medicare Will Cover Telehealth During Coronavirus Pandemic

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, March 17th, 2020, 5:04 PM PERMALINK

The Trump administration is using its executive authority to temporarily cover telehealth services for Medicare beneficiaries in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. This change will allow patients to interact with their doctors via phone or video conferencing at no additional cost, covering commonly used services like Facetime and Skype. 

As the Coronavirus spreads across the United States, Trump rightly recognizes that telemedicine is a natural solution for patients to connect to their doctors during this public health crisis.

On March 13th 2020, Trump declared the Coronavirus pandemic a national emergency, allowing the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to act quickly to provide maximum flexibility for patients and providers. 

Prior to this declaration, Medicare was only allowed to pay for telemedicine in certain circumstances, such as for rural patients that lacked easy access to their doctors. In these situations, the patient would have to travel to a medical facility and teleconference with their doctors, and beneficiaries could not generally receive care in their homes. 

The Trump Administration has previously expanded telemedicine in Medicare. Over the past two years, beneficiaries have been able to briefly check in with their doctors via phone, videoconferencing, or online patient portals. 

The telemedicine expansion for Coronavirus allows a wide range of providers (doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed social workers) to offer telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries. Beneficiaries can receive telecare at any healthcare facility, like nursing homes or physician’s offices, or from the comfort of their own homes. 

In order to allow patients to more easily communicate with their providers, the Administration loosened the HIPAA requirements surrounding telemedicine. This important change allows doctors to see patients via commonly used apps like Facetime and Skype that were previously non-HIPAA compliant. 

Beneficiaries will be able to receive a wide range of services under this expansion, including routine check-ins, mental health counseling, and preventative health screenings. 

Seniors are at the highest risk of harm from the Coronavirus. Allowing Medicare beneficiaries to receive a wide range of services via telemedicine reduces their risk of exposure to the disease and allows providers to focus on the most critical patients during this health crisis. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


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