Preventing Obamacare from Undermining Innovation; Price Controls and Taxes Only Discourage Medical Progress

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 25, 2013 | Go to article overview

Preventing Obamacare from Undermining Innovation; Price Controls and Taxes Only Discourage Medical Progress


Byline: Hadley Heath, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The national conversation over health care reform has once again reached a fever pitch, resulting in a government shutdown for 16 days earlier this month. Even after the shutdown and a rocky start to the law's online-enrollment feature, Americans remain divided. Some want to move ahead with Obamacare, emphasizing the shortcomings of the current health care system in the United States.

Indeed, many facets of the American health system were (and still are) dysfunctional. Reform is necessary. In the ongoing critique of our health system, though, we should keep in mind one area where American health care has led; namely, innovation. This innovation is a result of our nation's laws protecting intellectual property and our health system that reward new, valuable ideas.

A 2009 study showed that American scientists won the Nobel Prize in 33 of the previous 40 years, whereas scientists from the entire rest of the world won it in only 25 out of those 40 years (the prize is often shared). Additionally, of the world's top 27 drugs and devices, U.S. physicians, companies and scientists had a hand in developing 20 of them, whereas Europeans only had a hand in 14.

Is this because of Americans' exceptional natural intelligence? Is it a result of our world-class public education system? Clearly, it is not.

Rather, America's free-enterprise system attracts the brightest minds from all over the world. These minds know that their contributions will be rewarded in markets - or discarded in socialist or government-run economies.

A key element is that American patent laws protect the intellectual property of health care innovators. Patents on pharmaceuticals allow companies to recoup their investments in research, development and trials to reach final products. Patents on medical devices do the same. This is critical, because the main cost of creating these new treatments isn't in their production, but in their development. Without these protections, the incentive to innovate would be drastically reduced.

Policymakers overlook this key factor in our medical system at our peril. Our innovations in health care save and enrich lives throughout the whole world, especially when other nations respect our intellectual property as well.

Sometimes, other nations steal American ideas. …

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