The June 11 hearing on 21st century cures raised the question of how to encourage investment in potential treatments or cures for all those sick people. The issue combines two things Americans are passionate about: Their health and getting rich. The hearing was accordingly filled to standing-room-only capacity. Doctors are identifying problems so fast that they now can list about 7,500 conditions with no cure or treatment. The number ranged from 7,000 to 8,000 through the hearing, possibly because more were being identified as the event progressed. Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette got something caught in her throat during her statement, possibly running up the condition meter. She eventually cleared it, possibly signifying a solution. Only about 500 conditions can be treated.
The British have a joke that five minutes after meeting an American, they’ve been told his entire medical history. With so many health problems plaguing so many Americans, the British are going to have to allocate more time.
Congress could enact a moratorium on the finding and naming of illnesses. Or take a cue from the Department of Veterans Affairs and fiddle with the list. But members took a different tack. Republicans argued that no problem is insurmountable when somebody can make money from it, and Democrats countered that no problem is surmountable when somebody’s charging too much for it.
Imagine James Madison showing up at the Supreme Court to talk about original intent and you have some sense of California Democrat Henry A. Waxman’s stature on this committee. In case anybody missed his colleagues’ references to legislation he worked on — the name of the Hatch-Waxman Act was a clue to one effort — Waxman, the full panel's ranking member, courteously ran through the legislation list himself.
Georgia Republican Phil Gingrey, a doctor as it happens, fought mightily to stay awake through it all. Gingrey yawned. He yawned and stretched. He yawned again. He closed his eyes to rest them. At one point, he was gently sucking his thumb as he snoozed. The condition count might have gone up on that behavior. Gingrey finally left the room, returning later with his drowsiness apparently cured.
New Jersey Republican Leonard Lance bounced into the hearing with what could have been a glad-to-be-alive look. The hearing was the morning after Virginia Republican Eric Cantor’s fatal encounter with primary voters.
Somehow, nobody saw any connection between 133 million Americans with chronic ailments and the current political mood.