In the May 23 “Our View,” The Free Press editorial board failed to accurately summarize the opioid legislation, understand the impacts, and appreciate our Constitutional restrictions.
Had The Free Press bothered to contact the 29 Republican legislators who voted against the opioid bill to understand both sides before it proclaimed its opinion, it may have presented a less biased view of the legislation and my position.
The Free Press’ assumptions do not reflect my position, nor are they supported by my statements or votes. I support paying to fight this crisis now; not two years from now, as this bill does. Four times, I voted in favor of using money from our Health Care Access Fund, which is available immediately, to fund the programs in this legislation, instead of relying on this bill’s unconstitutional fine, which will likely be held up in the courts.
Recently, in Healthcare Distribution Alliance v. Zucker et al. a New York federal court found a similar opioid tax to violate the interstate commerce clause. The role of the Legislature is not to be judge, jury and executioner, assessing punitive damages just so it looks good on campaign mailers. We should not be supporting crony capitalism, as reflected in this bill. We should not pass bad legislation to fix in future years. And, we should not be increasing the cost of health care.
Minnesotans’ number one issue is the cost of health care. After New York passed a similar opioid tax, generic manufacturers stopped distributing there. (In Minnesota, 90% of legal opioids come from generic manufacturers.) In New York the judge stayed similar opioid legislation until after the lawsuit was decided. Court testimony predicted a 1,200% increase in the cost of opioids.
We do not decrease the cost of anything by taxing it. This new $20.5 million annual opioid tax, the proposed $10.4 million annual insulin tax, and the new 1.8% tax on all medical bills will increase health-care costs and are wrong. They create another tax to pass on to the sick.
The Free Press failed to mention the bill, as signed by the governor, takes many of the fees, originally aimed at Big Pharma, and assesses them to veterinarians, suppliers of medical oxygen, and non-opioid drug wholesalers. Of the $20.5 million in annual fees, $12 million will be assessed to everyone else taxed under this bill. Furthermore, the sunset eliminates fees for opioid manufacturers, but permanently increases health-care costs for everyone else.
Your editorial board’s biased approach prevented it from seeing the truth: Big Pharma put the screws to the authors of the opioid bill and rewrote it to benefit Big Pharma. As I stated on the house floor, “This is crony capitalism at its finest.”
Instead of assessing the fees in proportion to market share, a flat fee is assessed to all manufacturers in an effort to box out competition. Finally, the bill funds additional bureaucrats, extending their reach to more drugs than just opioids.
Minnesotans want Big Pharma to pay for their role. However, assessing punitive damages is not the role of our Legislature; it is the role of our courts. Thus, on May 17, Attorney General Keith Ellison joined other states in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. I support this suit, which is expected to produce over a trillion dollars for states to combat addiction and opioid crimes.
If your editorial board understands the role of our courts and Ellison’s suit, how can it support punitive damages assessed by an emotional Legislature? Where is its support for the 29 lawmakers who repeatedly voted to use available funds to fight addiction now, who fought against increasing health-care costs and who honored their oath to legislate within the confines of our Constitutions?
The bill’s authors made excuses for it being poorly written, “hoping to fix it in the years to come.” Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, acknowledged, “clunkers” in the bill. Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, the House author, admitted frustration with how Big Pharma changed this bill and said: “We’ll have more work to do. This isn’t the end, this is the beginning.” This is not how good laws are created.
We need to address the opioid problem, but the opioid legislation passed this year in Minnesota is not even a good start. It is an unconstitutional punitive penalty that unfairly increases expenses for farmers and patients and will likely be held up in the court instead of actually helping to fight addiction now.
Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, represents District 23B.