CNN's Sylvester Unfairly Presented, Quickly Dismissed Economist's Views on Medicare

    There she goes again. Two days after taking transportation policy expert Robert Poole out of context in a toll road story, CNN’s Lisa Sylvester cut around the substance of a USC economist’s arguments against a Medicare bill before Congress.

     “My position is that H.R. 4 is actually very damaging public policy,” economist Dr. Joel Hay told the Business & Media Institute. “I wanted to present my view,” that “price negotiations or price controls are going to end up damaging the innovative pharmaceutical industry” but “none of that got into the program,” said the University of Southern California professor of his appearance in a segment on the January 11 “Lou Dobbs Tonight.”

    In the sound bite aired, Hay complained that government negotiation can’t ultimately lower prices unless it completely shuts companies out of the Medicare market as a punishment for making an acceptable offer. But excluded was conservative argument that private drugs plans actually drive down costs.


     “I certainly don’t feel I’m treated fairly,” Hay added, complaining that his sound bite was a “correct point” but had little to do with his chief concerns with the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007.


     What’s more Sylvester dismissed his comment by insisting that “common sense says the bargaining power of 40 million seniors will drive down prices.”

     “This is economics 101,” liberal freshman Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) insisted immediately following Sylvester’s “common sense” line. But far from an armchair pundit, Hay is an expert in the field of economics devoting to studying the pharmaceutical industry.

     He is “a founding member of the Board of Directors of the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research” (ISPOR), according to his USC faculty profile.

     ISPOR describes its mission as translating research on pharmacy economics “into practice to ensure that society allocates scarce healthcare resources wisely, fairly, and efficiently.”


     Hay is not alone in his criticism of H.R. 4, a key part of the Democratic majority’s “100 Hours” agenda. As Greg D’Angelo and Dr. Robert Moffit of the Heritage Foundation wrote in a January 11 WebMemo, the government intervention envisioned in the legislation won’t lower prices and won’t involve real negotiation but government coercion.

     The “savings could come only from denying seniors access to drugs from manufacturers unwilling to accept the government-set price,” D’Angelo and Moffit wrote. Ultimately “government ‘negotiation’ would not be negotiation as it is used in the private sector” but instead “would become an exercise of government power to fix prices and exclude from the market any company offering a drug at a higher price.”