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Remember Hillary Clinton’s Vaccine Fiasco?

From “The First Partner – Hillary Rodham Clinton,” by Joyce Milton, pp 278-280:

Reclaiming America

Hillary believed that every cause needed a villain, and the pharmaceutical companies had been chosen as the designated enemy of the day. On February 12 [1993], Hillary traveled to a health care conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with Tipper Gore to deliver a speech lambasting drug manufacturers for profiteering at the expense of America’s children. Charging that the cost of immunizing a child had risen from $6.69 in 1981 to $90.43 in 1991, an increase of 1,250 percent, Hillary told the audience, “Unless you are willing to take on those who profited from that kind of increase and are continuing to do so, you cannot provide the kind of universal immunization system that this country needs to have.”

Whether drug companies actually priced their products too high was a matter of opinion. With many new drugs in development, the pharmaceutical business is becoming more competitive than it was in the past. Investors in start-up biotech companies, in particular, regularly risk — and lose — millions in the hopes of backing a breakthrough drug. High-tech drugs developed through free-market investments hold the best hope for conquering scourges like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, they are often highly cost effective compared to alternative treatments such as surgery. On the other hand, millions of Americans who obtain health care through their employers or the government have no idea what it actually costs. Many of them do pay out of pocket for drugs, and therefore they are ripe for the argument that their prescriptions cost too much.

At any rate, the charge that drug companies were responsible for low vaccination rates was as bogus as Hillary’s statistics, which did not take into account the addition of new shots to the recommended vaccination program. Manufacturers already donated free vaccines for needy children, and public health specialists, including Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who had supervised childhood vaccination programs during the Clinton era in Arkansas, agreed that the problem was educating parents to bring their children in for shots, not the cost of the vaccines.

Nevertheless, free childhood vaccinations had long been part of the Children’s Defense Fund agenda, and the Clintons used the momentum created by Hillary’s speeches to push a bill through Congress that gave Health and Human Services the power to bypass the established distribution system by buying up stocks of vaccines at cut-rate prices and storing them in a central warehouse. Government involvement threatened to create a bottleneck in the supply of vaccines and to discourage pharmaceutical companies from developing new ones.

Senator Dale Bumpers, whose wife had long been a volunteer in pediatric vaccination programs in Arkansas, denounced the administration’s actions as creating a “bureaucratic nightmare.” Public health experts agreed, and the administration, faced with overwhelming criticism, abandoned the distribution plan.

Judging from a 1995 report by the General Accounting Office, the pediatric vaccination program that existed in 1993 had been generally on target in meeting its goals. Based on Hillary Clinton’s proclamation of a nonexistent crisis, Congress had been stampeded into passing unnecessary legislation. And even though the worst features of the administration plan had been dropped, the country was still stuck with a program that was more costly, cumbersome and wasteful than the one it replaced.

What’s more, the alarming statistics Hillary had cited on the rise in prices of prescription drugs were another myth. It turned out that the Labor Department statisticians had gotten the numbers wrong.

This news came too late for investors. The threat of price controls had caused the blue chip pharmaceutical stocks to decline as much as 40 percent, wiping out over $1 billion worth of market capitalization. Some smaller biotech companies were put out of business permanently.

Only short sellers profited, among them a private hedge fund called ValuePartners I, run by Smith Capital Management of Little Rock, Arkansas. Hillary Clinton held an $87,000 stake in Value Partners I, which also owned a block of stock in United Healthcare, an HMO that stood to benefit under the Clinton reform plan. Lois Quam, a United Healthcare vice president, was a member of the task force.

Unlike the Carters, Bushes and Reagans, the Clintons failed to put their assets into a blind trust when they moved into the White House. Hillary resisted the notion that her financial affairs were anybody’s business but her own, and she reasoned that since she was not a government employee and the money was in her name, she didn’t have to resort to a trust. Vince Foster wasn’t sure this was so. After seeing the financial disclosure statement filed by the Clintons the previous December, Foster worried that Hillary’s interest in Value Partners I might pose a conflict of interest…

Just a little taste of the Hillarycare to come.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Wednesday, October 31st, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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