President Obama’s Plans for Healthcare Reform and Job Growth

February 12, 2013
Susan Haigney

Susan Haigney is managing editor of Pharmaceutical Technologyand Pharmaceutical Technology Europe, susan.haigney@ubm.com.

President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Feb. 12, 2013 touched on some issues that may directly impact the pharmaceutical industry: healthcare reform, innovation, and job creation.

President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Feb. 12, 2013 touched on some issues that may directly impact the pharmaceutical industry: healthcare reform, innovation, and job creation. So how has the pharmaceutical industry responded?

The president proposed reforms on Medicare to help reduce the country’s debt and slow down the rise of healthcare costs. “The biggest driver of our long-term debt is the rising cost of healthcare for an aging population,” said Obama in his address. “On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of healthcare savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson–Bowles Commission.” Obama also proposed reducing taxpayer subsidies to prescription-drug companies and changing the way the government pays for Medicare.

The Generic Pharmaceutical Association released a statement underscoring the importance of generic drugs in healthcare cost reform. “We urge policymakers to look to a proven tool in lowering health care costs-increasing the use of high quality, affordable generic prescription drugs. This also means that we must avoid measures that while intended to provide savings, would in fact have the unintended consequence of raising prescription drug costs.”

Stressing the need for job creation, the President mentioned major companies and industries that are bringing outsourced jobs and offshore plants back to the United States. While not specifically mentioning the pharmaceutical industry, Obama proposed tax credits for businesses that invest in the US job market and stated, “Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance anymore.”

Jim Greenwood of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) agreed on his blog at Bio.org with the President’s call for job creation and pointed to advances in the biotechnology industry. “Every day our companies [in the biotechnology industry] are working to find new cures, feed a growing global population, and develop cleaner and safer forms of energy. These companies are creating new American jobs. In addition, we must have a debate on the future of our tax code-and ensure that our tax system fosters innovation.”

The President stressed the need for innovation and investment in new ideas to ensure economic growth. “Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy-every dollar,” he said. “Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s.  They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs…Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.  We need to make those investments.”

What did you think of the President’s proposals for Medicare reform and job creation? Is the bio/pharmaceutical industry doing all it can to foster economic growth and healthy research and development?