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Paragon Health Institute Newsletter

President at Paragon Health Institute
Brian Blase, Ph.D., is the President of Paragon Health Institute. Brian was Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy at the White House’s National Economic Council (NEC) from 2017-2019, where he coordinated the development and execution of numerous health policies and advised the President, NEC director, and senior officials. After leaving the White House, Brian founded Blase Policy Strategies and serves as its CEO.

The major health policy developments of the past few weeks relate to the Omicron variant and the Build Back Better (BBB) legislation. Yesterday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) made major news by announcing his opposition to the BBB Act, which contained a host of problematic health policy provisions, including an unwise expansion of Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies as well as damaging pharmaceutical price controls. 
The expanded ACA subsidies would have increased health inflation, replaced employer-sponsored coverage with government coverage, unfairly benefited wealthy households, and significantly increased federal deficits. The pharmaceutical price controls, according to Paragon Public Advisor and former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Tomas Philipson, would have significantly reduced drug innovation and the quality and quantity of Americans’ lives. 
Although Sen. Manchin’s opposition to the BBB appears to be the death knell for that mix of policies and its huge price tag, it is likely that some of those policy proposals will resurface next year. And Paragon will be ready with the key research and analysis that policymakers need.
Meanwhile, with the emergence of the Omicron variant, many of Paragon’s advisors have been at the forefront of supporting commonsense policy related to the ongoing pandemic. Dr. Joel Zinberg, the director of Paragon’s Public Health and American Well-Being Initiative, continues to produce thoughtful commentaries (herehere, and here in just the past few weeks) on public policy around the pandemic; Paragon Public Advisor Dr. Marty Makary testified before Congress on the pandemic; and Public Advisor Paul Mango had a USA Today op-ed on Operation Warp Speed. 
Before BBB died yesterday, problematic Medicaid payment cuts were removed. 
On December 9, I wrote a Paragon report motivated by unfair payment cuts to safety net hospitals only in non-Medicaid expansion states in the House-passed version of the BBB Act. These cuts were designed to fund elements of the BBB’s vast new spending. In the report, I presented state-level data showing huge inequities in federal spending to support health services for the uninsured and low-income individuals, criticized the targeted cuts in non-Medicaid-expansion states where federal spending is relatively low, and recommended reforms to Medicaid financing. 
Just two days after we published the report, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee released its version of the BBB Act without the DSH cuts contained in the House-passed bill. Public Advisor Dean Clancy credited my report with the policy change.

Don’t Wait for Washington
Paragon Public Advisor Naomi Lopez and I recorded a Heartland Institute podcast in which we discussed the launch of Paragon and our mission. We also discussed Paragon’s state policy book, which has been downloaded from our website more than 500 times. If you haven’t already obtained a copy of “Don’t Wait for Washington: How States Can Reform Health Care Today,” you can download a copy and view videos featuring the book’s authors here.
Paragon People Are Making an Impact
Dr. Marty Makary testified on December 14 before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. During his opening statement, Dr. Makary asked committee members “to consider new scientific data that tells us that some COVID policies have become too extreme, too ridged, and are no longer driven by clinical data.” 
Paul Mango marked the first anniversary of Operation Warp Speed’s initial shipment of millions of COVID vaccines with an op-ed in USA Today. “Operation Warp Speed was the most successful public-private partnership since World War II. It reduced the typical timetable for vaccine development of 5 to 10 years to 10 months,” he wrote.
Mango, who also served as HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s liaison to Operation Warp Speed, wrote that the public-private partnership “enabled America’s private sector to deliver more vaccines, faster than ever before, and in quantities substantial enough to vaccinate every eligible American by the end of April 2021 — scarcely 15 months after the initial genetic characterization of the COVID-19 virus.” Mango’s forthcoming book is “Warp Speed: Inside the Operation that Beat COVID, the Critics, and the Odds.” 
Dr. Joel M. Zinberg wrote in National Review last week that the “Food and Drug Administration … seems to lack the same sense of urgency” as public officials who are reimposing COVID restrictions in response to the Delta variant surge and the Omicron variant. 
“We are now almost two years into a pandemic that has killed nearly 800,000 Americans,” wrote Dr. Zinberg. “Two new medications that are inexpensive, easy to administer, and safe for most people could significantly mitigate any additional illness and death. But that will only be possible if the FDA moves with more alacrity than it has demonstrated to date.”
In closing, as one year ends and another year is set to begin, it’s hard to believe that Paragon only launched five weeks ago. In the year ahead, I look forward to new opportunities and overcoming challenges as we try to improve health policy for the American people. 
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and best wishes for the new year.

Recent Newsletters

New Paragon Report: BBB Cuts Payments To Hospitals Where Federal Spending Is Already Low
Dr. Joel Zinberg’s WSJ Op-Ed: Drug Prices Haven’t Been Going Up


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