Santorum defends drug companies in health care speech
February 1st, 2012
07:37 PM ET
3 years ago

Santorum defends drug companies in health care speech

Woodland Park, Colorado (CNN) – In what his campaign billed as a "major speech on health care," Rick Santorum found himself Wednesday defending a profit-driven health care system to a woman who said her son requires expensive medication to stay alive.

The former Pennsylvania senator also detailed the deficiencies he sees in his rivals' health insurance records.

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One of the feistiest exchanges came in response to a young child's question on the cost of medical care in America. Urged on by his mother, a boy asked what Santorum would do to lower medical costs, but before he could finish his question, the candidate said such things should be left up to the market.

"We can make medicine cheaper by using markets," Santorum said. "That's how you make medicine cheaper is that you have free people going out there and competing against each other and competition drives up quality and drives down costs."

As Santorum was outlining his small-government, free-market approach to rising health care costs, another woman chimed in that she can no longer afford medication she desperately needs because the cost has become so exorbitant.

"The only reason new drugs are developed is because Americans actually do pay for the cost of that research," Santorum said. "And so when you say oh, I'll go and get my drugs in Canada, that's great. Go get your drugs in Canada and if everybody did that, you'd have no new drugs. You have that drug and maybe you're alive today because people have a profit motive to make that drug."

Using a somewhat confusing metaphor, Santorum tried to explain the need for a profit motive by comparing health care consumption to technology consumption.

"People have no problem going out and buying an iPad for $900," he said. "But paying $900 for a drug, they have a problem with it. It keeps you alive. Why? Because you have been conditioned to thinking that health care is something that you should get and not have to pay for. Drug companies, health care companies need to have a profit motive, because if they don't, then how are we going to regulate costs? We are gonna ration care."

The mother of the original questioner tried once more to plead her case, explaining that she's paid $1.3 million a year to keep her son alive, and while she's willing to go bankrupt for her child, it pains her to see his friends die in the hospital because their parents cannot afford the treatment.

Finding himself in the unenviable position of defending oft-derided drug companies, Santorum stuck to his guns.

"He's alive today because drug companies thought that they would make money in providing that care and if the drug company didn't think they could make any money by providing that care, I hate to put it in these terms, but that drug wouldn't be here," he said, adding that he sympathized with the mother, "we either believe in markets or we don't."

Asked by a reporter after the event about what alternatives people in such tough circumstances have, Santorum suggested that charity was a better option than government intervention.

"Even in the tough cases, even at the ones that pull at your heart strings, we've got to believe in people and markets and churches and families and charity instead of government, and that's what I believe" he said.

Earlier in his remarks, while highlighting the similarities between the health care plan Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts and the controversial plan passed by President Obama, Santorum came out against the widely-popular provision that requires insurance companies to offer plans regardless of preexisting conditions.

"I have family members who have preexisting conditions, and I'm not for preexisting condition clauses," Santorum said.

To justify his position, he described a hypothetical situation wherein healthy Massachusetts residents opt not to buy insurance, instead paying a fine. Then when they get sick, they purchase insurance, immediately dropping it again once they get better.

"What happens to the cost of health insurance," Santorum asked the crowd, many of whom answered that costs would rise. "There's a reason for preexisting conditions clauses. You want people to get insurance, and if they don't, then they shouldn't be free riding on everybody else. That's exactly what's going to happen with Obamacare."

Santorum said this similarity between "Obamacare" and "Romneycare" would mean that "Barack Obama, in a debate or in this election, is going to destroy Mitt Romney on the issue of health care." Both plans are wrong, he argued, because both represent top-down management of an issue that should be left up to families.

Also see:

Romney: Convention or bust

Santorum looks past Florida

New anti-Obama ad slams Solyndra 'fiasco'

Romney to receive Secret Service protection


Filed under: 2012 • Rick Santorum
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. David Weinschrott

    Santorum dances around the truth but can't see it. If it were the proverbial snake... If we want insurance companies not to deny coverage – then everyone has to be covered – thus the mandate. This is what the insurance companies want – they complain because Obamacare's mandate is not comprehensive enough. Santorum complains about Mass. residents paying the fine instead of paying the premium. So the mandate should be stronger so people pay the premium instead. So how is it that drug markets are free markets with drug firms having 14 year monopolies?

    February 1, 2012 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. TNPatriot

    "We can make medicine cheaper by using markets," Santorum said. "That's how you make medicine cheaper is that you have free people going out there and competing against each other and competition drives up quality and drives down costs."
    This from the guy who voted YEA, on 11/25/03 on HR1 that contained a provision that prohibited 'free market' bidding by the drug companies supplying prescriptions through medicare part D.

    February 1, 2012 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  3. steph in TX

    How dare he compare a one time cost for a technological device to monthly costs for life-sustaining drugs? Guess what, Rick? My computer is over 5 years old, both family cars are more than 10 years old, health insurance for my husband (with his doctorate) & myself (only a bachelor's degree) is something we can only hope to have again in the future, and it's thanks to the state children's health insurance plan that we are able to keep our diabetic child alive. Keep these people OUT of public office!

    February 1, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  4. Over It

    This is one of the sickest things I've ever heard.

    February 1, 2012 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  5. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The market he is so proud of doesn't do enough to help those that can't make it. The market doesn't care if you can't pay the price. It just wants the money; more disclosure help creates more chances for the price to come down.

    February 1, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  6. J.V.Hodgson

    Totally ignores the issue of why the drug is cheaper in other places.
    It is so because it prescription controlled so wwhat is happening in the US is the so called grey trade wher the drugs are prescribed elsewhere sold cheaper but still with an intermediary profit element, and the even larger disgrace of exhorbitant prices being charged for short supply specialised drugs to hospitals.
    Santorum has a policy that covers eveything and his very sick child has no worries even if it costs millions!! but the dear lady and child who spent $1.3m; that's 26 years of total average earnings gross in America on medications alone. 98% of this nation cannot afford that stupidity, and QED the majority of such patients will die and/or not be treated.
    Keep that answer up Santorum and your presidential hopes are DOA in all future states in which you compete.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    February 1, 2012 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  7. mk1

    Hum, an IPad or drugs? You pay $900 for an IPad once, while you may pay $900 for drugs PER MONTH!!!! This is so typical of Republicans. These guys have great health care, they have no clue what it is like without it. They are so out of touch with ordinary Americans. To me making money off peoples illnesses is obscene and immoral.

    February 2, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  8. Thomas

    Evangelical family-values advocate James Dobson offered his personal endorsement of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum for president ...

    Rick voted to prevent Americans from getting just compensation for their pain and suffering caused by medical malpractice
    But that didn’t keep Rick’s wife from suing a Virginia chiropractor for a half million dollars in “pain and suffering”
    Pretty hypocritical, since that’s twice as much as the cap on such damages that his own legislation would have allowed others to receive
    Rick calls their own lawsuit a “private family matter,” but doesn’t seem to think everyone else’s family deserves the same rights and respect

    February 2, 2012 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  9. Markets, churches, families, charities?

    If those things are the answer to our problems, and not government, then why is Santorum running for a position in government? If he thinks government is the problem, why does he want any part of it? Run for president of a charity instead and stop wasting our time.

    February 2, 2012 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  10. geggyg

    Not many charities have the resources to pay one persons med /drug costs of $1.3 million per year on an ongoing basis possibly for years . If Santorun believes in markets making drugs cheaper why is against govt hospital s. medicare etc ability to negoiate bulk purchasing discounts as any other large company can. If he supported this govt heath costs would be reduced substantially

    February 2, 2012 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  11. Marry

    Well, no health insurance cover for “sick people”, like to fire people, corporations are people too my friends, let the market bottom out, let kids clean the school toilets, lower taxes for the job creators, get rid of regulations that protect you so they can up their profits, (and the list goes on!) the statements that show you what the GOP/TP thinks of YOU are clear! They have not shame! Now, are you going to be fooled and leave your brain on the doorstep of the voting booth?
    President Obama 2012!

    February 2, 2012 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  12. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Bought and paid for like the other GOBP wingnuts.

    February 2, 2012 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  13. T'sah From Virginia

    No Comment!

    Obama 2012

    February 2, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  14. Anonymous

    Nice to see Mr. Frothy is getting back in touch with his roots as a corrupt corporate lobbyist. That's the real Slick Rick we all know and hate.

    February 2, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  15. BeanTown Bully

    Wow! How come no one asks him how his philosphy would have helped those devistated by hurricane Katrina. Bush tried the local government, market driven solutions; it resulted in the devastation of an American city, and a huge hole in our budget (medicare part D). Santorum is a mean person with no compassion for his fellow man.
    And he's a christian... if u believe that, I got some ocean front property in North Dakota I can sell ya, cheap.
    Obama/Biden/Warren 2012

    February 2, 2012 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  16. Cfrench

    Why is his name ebroidered on his catholic school boy sweater vest? Is he that much of an unknown?

    February 2, 2012 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
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