U.S. Congressmen Jim Banks (Ind. – District 3) (L) and Richard Hudson (N.C. – District 8) pose for a photo in the Zimmer Biomet plant 5 lobby Wednesday before going on a tour of the facilities. The two Republicans also visited DePuy Synthes. Photo by David Slone
U.S. Congressmen Jim Banks (Ind. – District 3) (L) and Richard Hudson (N.C. – District 8) pose for a photo in the Zimmer Biomet plant 5 lobby Wednesday before going on a tour of the facilities. The two Republicans also visited DePuy Synthes. Photo by David Slone
Indiana’s 3rd District Congressman, Jim Banks, brought North Carolina’s 8th District Congressman, Richard Hudson, to Warsaw Wednesday to tour and learn more about the medical device companies here.

The two Republicans’ first stop was Zimmer Biomet’s plant 5.

Hudson “serves on the very powerful Energy & Commerce Committee, as one of the leaders of the House to repeal the medical device tax. Every chance I get in my job, I tell my colleagues, like Richard, about the unique cluster that we have of medical device companies in northeast Indiana, specifically in Warsaw,” Banks said.

He said he and Hudson have been talking for months about Hudson coming to Warsaw to tour some of the companies and learn about the local eco-system in Warsaw “so that he can support my efforts, I can support his efforts, to better support companies like Zimmer Biomet and DePuy, which we’re touring later today as well,” Banks said.

Democrat presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have proposed “Medicare for All” plans. It would expand Medicare to all Americans. Banks said their policies would be “devastating” for communities like Warsaw.

“It would be devastating to innovation and continued investment in companies like these. We already know that the Medical Device Tax cost us job growth in this region. We know that all of these companies could grow even more if we didn’t have the Medical Device Tax. So that impacts workers, wages and local investment,” Banks said.

“Elizabeth Warren, whose ideas are as radical as they come on the national stage, is just one of many of the candidates on the national level who have a bad platform that could kill jobs right here in Warsaw, Indiana,” he said.

North Carolina has “pretty big” pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, Hudson said.

“But you’ve got a congressman here who literally talks about home all the time. He’s always bragging about what’s going on in this part of the country with agriculture, or this healthcare cluster we’re looking at today with the (medical) device companies,” Hudson said. “I’ve wanted to get out here and see this for a long time.”

He said plans like Medicare for All would “completely crush” innovation because “they would say, ‘here’s the devices we’ll pay for, and here’s how much we’ll pay for them,’ so there’d be no incentive to try to create new devices and bring new things to market, investing millions of dollars in research, because the federal government is going to tell you what you’re getting paid for. So it would crush innovation, and places like Warsaw would be critically impacted.”

Banks said one could only speculate that Medicare for All might lead to some businesses moving their companies overseas, but “the incentive would no longer be there to create good-paying jobs in Warsaw, Indiana. That incentive would evaporate and inevitably lead to job losses here.”

He said he and Hudson were at orthopedic companies in Warsaw Wednesday to talk about issues like the Medical Device Tax and many others.

“But the election of 2020 is staring us in the face, and these will be the types of issues that the presidential candidates should be and will be talking about. But as members of Congress, we’re here to learn more from leadership at Zimmer Biomet and DePuy about how we can better serve the unique nature of what they’re trying to accomplish here, and hopefully even better days lie ahead for this region to create more good-paying jobs for people in Warsaw,” Banks said.

Without pursuing a plan like Medicare for All, the Congressmen were asked how they would address the problem of spiraling medical costs.

Hudson said, “We have the greatest healthcare system in the world, here in the United States. We have the best doctors, best care. We have devices here that other countries don’t have. We have procedures that are available here that aren’t available other places.”

He said in America, the problem is that costs are too high.

“We as Republicans, conservatives, we think that you can use free-market principles to drive down costs without crushing innovation. The solution you’re seeing from these Democrats running for president is, ‘let’s have the government set prices, the government run the system,’ so you’ll have less choices and then the government will pay for it,” Hudson said. “Well, someone’s got to pay for it because the government doesn’t have any money. They take all the money from us in taxes. And so we believe that the best way to drive down prices is through competition, through free-market principles, through shared risk.”

He said something like 5% of patients take up 50% of the costs in healthcare.

“So let’s just decide as a society we’re going to take care of those 5%. We’re going to supplement that. The government is going to pay through healthcare to make it affordable. Well, the other 95% of us, all of our healthcare rates will go down because 50% of the costs have been taken out of the system. And so we all can have lower rates,” Hudson said.

“So if we agree to tackle the problems where they are, and really deal with that issue of price, through market forces, we can keep this great healthcare system we’ve got, but drop down prices so people don’t have to make choices between food and drugs.”

With public impeachment hearings on President Donald Trump to begin next week, Banks said that will keep anything from getting done.

“That’s what’s so infuriating about the impeachment sham process that we’re going through currently, is that nothing else is getting done,” Banks said. “That’s costing us opportunities like passing (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), replacing NAFTA, which would be really good for northeast Indiana for agriculture, manufacturing jobs and for workers.”

Banks said drug pricing is a top priority for Trump and his administration moving forward, but many of those efforts have been blocked because the House is focused just on impeachment and not able to tackle too much else.

“I serve on the Armed Forces Committee. We’re trying to pass a defense bill, but even that’s been stalled because everyone is focused on (impeachment) in the House. The Democrats are all focused on impeachment instead. We are all the losers because of the House Democrat majority is focused on impeachment, which has taken almost everything else off the table,” Banks said.