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Republicans look to free market, tax cuts in effort to meet healthcare needs

BY Jim Frederick

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part look at the 2008 presidential election, the candidates, and, most important, how they stand on health care, including—where applicable—their past voting record on the issues that matter most to retail pharmacy. In the Nov. 12, 2007, issue, Drug Store News examined leading Democrats; this time, the Republicans are under the microscope.

WASHINGTON

“Overall, the Democrats are more trusted than the Republicans to come up with good healthcare policies, but all parties and candidates have seen a decline in the public’s trust since February 2007, suggesting a general concern about politicians’ ability to affect change,” noted a recent report from WSJ.com/Harris Interactive. Among Republicans, the report noted, containing healthcare costs is the top priority. But no matter which party voters adhere to, most appear ready for fundamental change in the health-care system. “Across party lines,” noted the Harris/WSJ report, “there is widely held belief that the U.S. healthcare system works better for the very poor and the wealthy than it does for the middle class. Two-thirds [65 percent] of all U.S. adults believe it is the government’s duty to ensure that all Americans have have adequate health care coverage, and equally large majorities [63 percent] believe that our healthcare system works well if you are healthy, but not if you are sick.”

Among Republican contenders, apparent front-runner Rudolph Giuliani said he’d provide tax deductions to help Americans offset the cost of individual health insurance, in part to lessen the reliance on employer-sponsored coverage. Families could see tax deductions as high as $15,000 under his proposal, and individuals $7,500, to buy coverage. Excess funds could be placed in health savings accounts. Low-income families also could receive tax refunds and subsidies to buy health coverage.

“I believe we can reduce costs and improve the quality of care by increasing competition … through tax cuts,” Giuliani said. “I will give Americans more control over and access to health care with affordable and portable free-market solutions.”

Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson expressed the belief that “every American should be able to get health insurance coverage that is affordable, fully accessible and portable … without imposing new mandates or raising taxes.” Although still short on specifics, Thompson’s plan would provide consumers with more information about “affordable healthcare options,” by encouraging clinical best practices and health IT, and by “shifting to a system that promotes cost-effective prevention, chronic-care management and personal responsibility.”

Arizona Sen. John McCain favors tax deductions to encourage employers to continue providing coverage, as well as tax credits of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to help them pay for health coverage. McCain opposes mandating coverage, however.

“I’m not going to force Americans to buy insurance,” he said. “But if we bring down the cost, I’m convinced more and more will take advantage of it.”

McCain also wants to overhaul the Medicare reimbursement to encourage prevention and coordination of care, require transparency to allow consumers to compare prices of drugs and doctors’ fees, encourage the use of retail health clinics and eliminate roadblocks to generic drug competition and the approval of biogenerics.

As governor of Massachusetts from 2001 to 2007, Mitt Romney signed legislation creating one of the nation’s most generous prescription drug benefits for the state’s residents. He also proved a friend to pharmacy by vetoing legislation that would have revived the state’s controversial prescription tax after it was struck down in court, and by rejecting efforts the state legislature made to reduce dispensing fees to $2 for both branded and generic prescriptions.

As an aspirant to the White House, Romney has taken a more conservative tack. “The health of our nation can be improved by extending health insurance to all Americans, not through a government program or new taxes, but through market reforms,” he said. “We can’t have as a nation 40 million people—or, in my state, half a million—saying, ‘I don’t have insurance, and if I get sick, I want someone else to pay.’”

“In my state … we had half a million people without insurance,” Romney told Iowa voters recently. “And I said, ‘How do we get everybody insured by supporting a free-market system. And we found a way to do that.

“Getting everybody insured is an important priority,” he added. “If we don’t do it, the Democrats will. And if the Democrats do it, it will be socialized medicine.”

Romney also promotes preventive health, particularly through childhood education and screening programs, as the best way to head off such conditions as diabetes and obesity and lower health costs.

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Stick Me Designs adds style to glucose meter bags

BY Michael Johnsen

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. Stick Me Designs, an emerging accessory designer of diabetes glucose carrying cases for women, teens and children, announced the launch of their glucose meter bag collection Friday.

“While the medical supply industry is busy working on adding color, convenience and function to their meters, they’ve forgotten the most important aspect of their portability—the carrying case,” stated Rickina Velte, founder of Stick Me Designs. “We’ve taken on the task of infusing design, style and function that adds personality to an everyday necessity for people with diabetes.”

The new diabetes bags offer choices in color, fabrics, design and functionality.

The first collection features four contemporary designs created for the One Touch Ultra glucose meter and other more traditional larger-style testing meters. The bags have elastic placeholders for lancet devices, testing strips and glucose tabs or candy. They also feature interior open and zippered pockets for such everyday essentials as credit cards, identification, money, sanitizing wipes and an outside zipper pocket for other essentials.

Stick Me Designs’ introductory collection also features hand-selected faux suedes, designer upholsteries and cotton fabrics in retro and contemporary styles and colors.

Suggested retail prices will range from $32.99 to $45.99, the company reported.

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Continucare opens first clinic at Navarro

BY Antoinette Alexander

MIAMI Continucare Corp. has announced the opening of its first ValuClinic in-store health clinic within a Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hollywood, Fla.

Similar to many other retail-based clinic models, the walk-in clinic will treat acute conditions and will be staffed by nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

According to Gabe Navarro, chief executive officer of the Miami-based pharmacy chain, Continucare was on the verge of opening a few locations in the recently acquired Sedano’s stores, so Navarro proceeded with the openings.

In October, it was announced that Navarro Discount Pharmacy would merge its operations with Sedano’s Pharmacy & Discount Store. Sedano’s is a Hispanic drug retail company with 11 pharmacies in the southern Florida market. Combined, the entity has more than 30 stores with annual revenues of more than $350 million. All of the stores are operating under the Navarro banner in the southern Florida market.

According to Navarro, plans call for Continucare to have three ValuClinics open in Navarro stores by the end of the year. It expects to have a total of 15 clinics in operation in 2008.

In late 2006 it was announced that Navarro had partnered with Express Clinics to introduce in-store health clinics to the southern Florida market; however, it is possible that partnership will come to an end.

“It is uncertain whether Express Clinics will continue to operate clinics in our stores,” Navarro told Drug Store News. “[We] should know more in the coming weeks.”

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