Vaccines are Coming!

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 912 points yesterday on the news that there is progress in the development of a Covid-19 virus vaccine. Even the mainstream media couldn’t find bad news in that announcement.

America has been shut down for over two months due to the virus pandemic, and nothing short of an effective vaccine is going to approach returning life to normal again. This promising news gives us all hope that day may come sooner rather than later.

The biotech firm Moderna has taken the early lead in developing a vaccine for Covid-19. The Wall Street Journal editorial board reports that Moderna used rapid genetic sequencing and its nimble mRNA manufacturing platform to develop and deliver a vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for clinical trials in late February.

Phase One of a clinical trial examining whether the vaccine is safe and provokes an immune response began in mid-March. Forty-five healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55 received varying doses. Moderna reported this week that all participants who had been evaluated after receiving two doses developed antibody levels at or above levels of those seen in patients who have recovered from the virus.

This is strong evidence the vaccines could be effective and there were no serious side effects reported. These promising results prompted the surge in the stock market.

Moderna also reported that its vaccine “provided full protection against viral replication in the lungs” in mice infected with the corona virus. On May 7, the FDA cleared the company to begin Phase Two trials with 600 participants including individuals over age 55 to determine whether they also muster a robust immune response.

The FDA also granted Moderna fast-track designation on May 12 which will allow the company to begin Phase Three trials to assess the vaccine’s efficacy in thousands of people by July. If results are promising, it is anticipated that vaccines could be available for high-priority groups such as healthcare workers as early as the fall.

This vaccine from Moderna is only one of over 100 vaccines in development worldwide. The Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are investing heavily to accelerate those vaccines with the most scientific potential based on early evidence.  Moderna is working hard to upscale their manufacturing potential and estimates it could produce 100 million doses a year. Other drug companies are also making plans for increasing manufacturing capability to produce vaccines if their candidates are successful.

Johnson & Johnson plans to begin clinical trials in September and hopes to produce its first batches of vaccine by early next year. Its Netherlands plant could produce 300 million doses annually. Pfizer is also testing several vaccine candidates and plans to have 10 to 20 million doses ready for emergency use this fall.

This is a testament to the ingenuity of the private sector in responding to this healthcare crisis. Fortunately, there is bipartisan support for this effort which has expedited the process. Thirty-five House Democrats and Republicans last month wrote a letter urging the FDA to act more rapidly and nimbly. President Trump has already appointed a task force to shepherd the approval of these new vaccines through the regulatory process.

America can accomplish much when we work together, unleash the “arsenal of democracy” of our private sector, and government facilitates the process. The stock market recognized the significance of this promising news and it should give hope to every American, too.

Bernie v. Biden – Medicare for All Sooner or Later

 

Now that Joe Biden is virtually assured the Democratic nomination for president, what can we expect from his healthcare plan? He says he’s not for the socialized medicine scheme of Senator Bernie Sanders. While Sanders recently dropped out of the race, he plans to continue to sell his progressive agenda in hopes of moving Biden farther to the left. Biden wants you to believe he doesn’t favor Sanders’ healthcare goals, but how much do they really differ?

Sanders is well-known for his healthcare proposal called Medicare for All – his form of socialized medicine that would take effect immediately and eliminate all private healthcare insurance. In the first Democratic presidential debate, nearly every candidate including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Corey Booker and Pete Buttigieg agreed with Sanders. The only leading candidates that disagreed were Joe Biden and Amy Klobuchar.

Now that all those other Medicare for All supporters have dropped out, we’re down to just Biden, while Sanders continues to press his ideas to influence Biden. Biden was Vice-President under President Obama, who engineered the passage of the Affordable Care Act (better known as ObamaCare) so he defends that legislation. He says he wants to “protect ObamaCare” and improve it by adding a Public Option.

What is the Public Option?

ObamaCare is a government-supported health insurance system that uses private healthcare insurers to provide coverage. Even though some lower income individuals receive government subsidies for their insurance, they purchase that coverage from private health insurers. These private insurers compete with other private insurers for quality and price in the marketplace. Those who charge too little, or provide too little, go bankrupt because they weren’t competitive. The government doesn’t bail them out when they fail.

The Public Option is different. It would allow the government to compete directly with these private healthcare insurers on price and quality. If the government fails, it doesn’t go bankrupt – the government simply raises taxes on the taxpayers to provide the shortfall. The government Public Option will have this huge advantage over private insurers so it will definitely win in the long run, driving out the private insurance competition.

Therefore, when Biden says he won’t take away your private healthcare insurance, he is being disingenuous. He may not take it away immediately, but he will surely take it away eventually. Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist credited with designing ObamaCare, showed in 2007 that when government insurance expands, six people go off private insurance for every 10 people who go on public insurance.

For example, in Hawaii, only seven months after offering Keiki Care in 2008, the country’s only statewide universal child health insurance, the state ended its optional program. Some 85% of those who signed up already had private insurance. Those costs were suddenly shifted to the taxpayers.

The Public Option would cause premiums for private insurance to skyrocket because of underpayment by government insurance compared with costs for services. According to the American Hospital Association, annual underpayment by Medicare and Medicaid surged to nearly $76.8 billion in 2017, nearly doubling once ObamaCare’s regulations came into play. That resulted in an increase in private insurance premiums of more than $1500 per family.

A Public Option is a slow, but steady, path to single-payer healthcare – socialized medicine. It will guarantee the government will eventually control all healthcare. The Wall Street Journal editorial board puts it this way: “Joe Biden’s new healthcare plan is supposed to show his moderation, not that this is a virtue to progressives. Hence the back and forth this week between Mr. Biden and Bernie Sanders about single payer. But cut through the spin, and the only debate Democrats are having is whether to eliminate private health insurance in one blow or on the installment plan.”

If you go back to the days before ObamaCare, it was clear that Democratic leaders including Obama, Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid were all in favor of single-payer systems. The only reason they didn’t push for it then was they didn’t have the votes even in their own party. They knew the country wasn’t ready for it.

Therefore, they pushed through ObamaCare and hoped it would fail, thus setting the stage for a single-payer solution to the crisis. That time has come. Secretly they are ecstatic to see Biden pitted against Sanders since Biden can appear to be the moderate compared to the extreme position of Sanders. But reality is that both candidates want to take the nation to the same healthcare system – government-controlled healthcare. It’s just a matter of time – sooner or later.

 

(For more on what’s wrong with keeping ObamaCare, see The ObamaCare Truth in 2020.)

Little Sisters of the Poor v. ObamaCare – Round II

ObamaCare is at it again, trying to deny The Little Sisters of the Poor Catholic nuns their religious freedom. This is Round II in their battle to be decided again by The Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS)

For review, The Affordable Care Act (better known as ObamaCare) required all insurance products to cover women’s “preventive care”, a euphemism for contraceptives and abortifacients (drugs that terminate pregnancy). Churches were exempted from this provision of the law but not employers. The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Catholic order that runs nursing homes for the poor. As such, they were not exempted from the law.

The Obama administration offered them an opt-out; a fig-leaf to circumvent the law, but the employer’s insurer would still have to cover the contraceptives and abortifacients. The nuns determined this was unacceptable and a violation of their religious freedom.

In 2016, the Supreme Court heard arguments from the sisters, as well as a host of other petitioners, in a case called Zubik v. Burwell. Before the SCOTUS decision was handed down, Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative Catholic justice, suddenly died, leaving the court with a split 4 – 4 decision. The Court did not rule on the merits but encouraged the religious parties and the government to find some other real accommodation.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board tells us in 2017 and 2018 the Trump administration expanded the exemption to employers who sincerely object to paying for contraceptives. But in a dreary example of liberal intolerance, Pennsylvania and New Jersey governors sued. The Little Sisters, with a home in Pittsburgh, moved to intervene. A federal judge issued a nationwide injunction, which was upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, the issue comes again before SCOTUS in a pair of consolidated cases known as The Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania.

The legal case is essentially unchanged since the first SCOTUS appearance did not rule on the merits. Pennsylvania and New Jersey argue the Trump administration has exceeded its authority because they believe neither ObamaCare nor the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) authorizes the creation of exemptions to the birth-control mandate. RFRA says that if the government wants to “substantially burden” religious exercise, it must have a “compelling interest” and also pursue it by “the least restrictive means.”

Pennsylvania and New Jersey argue again that the previously offered “opt-out” by the Obama administration is sufficient. The U.S. Solicitor General argues to second-guess sincere beliefs “is not appropriate under RFRA.”

The Little Sisters quote the government as saying that after any opt-out the contraceptive coverage would be “seamless,” provided as “part of the same plan.” This is no accommodation, they say, but “just the latest and most convoluted means of offering the Little Sisters an alternative mechanism to comply with the contraceptive mandate.” That the nuns reject it “is not obstinacy but constancy of belief.”

This issue was decided earlier in a case known as Hobby Lobby v. Burwell  as it applied to closely held businesses. In 2014 SCOTUS held 5-4 that the contraception mandate could not be squared with RFRA. The Court said, “The government has not shown that it lacks other means of achieving its desired goal without imposing a substantial burden on the exercise of religion.” As one alternative, the ruling suggested that the feds could “assume the cost’ themselves. This analysis still holds.

The intolerance of the left for religious freedom is contrary to the principles upon which this country was founded. The United States has a long history of religious liberty evidenced by the exemption of the Amish from social security and the accommodation of pacifists like the Quakers and the Brethren from military service. It seems ridiculous in the extreme to expect Catholic nuns, of all people, to provide contraception and abortifacients for their employees. Religious freedom was bought with a high price by our forefathers and we must not allow their efforts to die in vain.