Paul Gibbs: Protect health care and democracy by voting

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Evan McMullin, the Independent party candidate for the 2022 U.S. Senate election hoping to unseat incumbent Mike Lee addresses a crowd of about 200 people in Salt Lake City, Sept. 7, 2022.

It didn’t take long for the far right to launch its latest attack on health care.

After the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

This landmark legislation introduced historic health care provisions, including a significant step forward in controlling prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices on some medications. Even with insurance, prescription drug prices in America are out of control, and this newly-passed law could reduce prices of some cancer treatments and other top name-brand drugs through Medicare by as soon as 2026.

It also allows Medicare to monitor whether manufacturers are complying with these changes and imposes monetary penalties if they don’t. Who on Earth would oppose making cancer medications more affordable to seniors? The charge to repeal that provision is being led by none other than Utah’s own Sen. Mike Lee.

Lee’s “Protect Drug Innovation Act” pushes tired corporate talking points to achieve its real goal of benefiting the pharmaceutical industry, not patients.

Since the most recent Supreme Court decision rejecting the challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health care advocates like me have relished the chance to play offense, working to expand access to health care through legislation such as the American Rescue Plan, Build Back Better and the Inflation Reduction Act.

While the second of these sadly did not pass, the first and third are doing a great deal of good. But Sen. Lee’s bill is a stark reminder that we are still being forced to play defense against those who would weaken access to health care in the interest of ideology and corporate profits.

And the sad reality is, this kind of move is nothing new for Sen. Lee.

Remember in 2013, when Lee joined fellow extremist Ted Cruz to shut down the government in an attempt to delay funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? The difference this time is that we have a very real chance of defeating Sen. Lee and ending his attacks on health care.

For the first time, Sen. Lee faces a very real challenge in the coming election.

Sen. Lee’s opponent, Evan McMullin, is virtually tied with Lee in a new public poll. As I said in a previous op-ed, I’ve spoken at length with McMullin about health care, and believe he will fight for patients.

McMullin supports allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices on order to reduce the cost burden on some of our most vulnerable citizens, and also led supports protecting pre-existing conditions through the ACA. But even more importantly, McMullin supports American democracy, which shouldn’t even be a question we have to ask, but it is.

Not only did Lee participate in shutting down the government in 2013, by his own admission he worked “14 hours a day” to help former President Trump find a way to overturn the 2020 election. Where Lee worked with those who would subvert the constitution and thwart the will of American voters, McMullin is passionate about protecting democracy and our right to vote.

Utah’s 2022 Senate race is vitally important, and there is a major difference between the two candidates. Don’t be fooled into believing otherwise. This is a choice between building on what is working on issues like health care and tearing it down. It’s a choice between protecting democracy and weakening it. Utah and America need voters to choose Evan McMullin and reject Mike Lee.

Paul Gibbs lives in West Valley City.

Paul Gibbs is an independent filmmaker and health care activist who likes being alive and living in a democratic republic, and wants to keep doing both. He lives in West Valley City with his wife Becky and his sons, Timothy and Peter.