Dueling School Funding Plans, Bill For Transparency On Drug Prices, Farm-To-Table Desserts

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Senator Tammy Baldwin is co-author of a new, bipartisan bill that would require more transparency from drug companies that plan to increase their prices. She joins us to discuss what the bill stipulates and its chances to move forward. We also talk with a pastry chef about how to make delicious desserts from ingredients in our gardens or farmers markets. Plus, some background behind a Republican debate over school funding.

Featured in this Show

  • Dueling School Funding Plans: Context Behind The Debate

    Assembly Republicans are making the case for their school funding plan; it’s a substantial change from the governor’s budget, and it would tinker with long-standing rules on school revenue. A long-time education reporter explains the background behind the debate.

  • Senator Baldwin On The FAIR Drug Pricing Act

    Wisconsin senator Tammy Baldwin joins us to talk about the bi-partisan bill she’s proposing with Senator John McCain, called the FAIR Drug Pricing Act. The legislation aims for greater transparency when it comes to increases in prescription drug prices.

  • New Bill In Congress Seeks To Make Drug Price Increases More Transparent

    Drug company Mylan earned the scorn of the public and lawmakers last year when it was revealed the cost of the lifesaving EpiPen had jumped from $90 for a pack of two to $600 over a decade.

    The furor over the EpiPen was the latest example of what had been growing in public awareness for some time: that pharmaceutical companies could raise the price of prescriptions with no warning and without needing to provide a justification. But a new bill proposed in Congress would require more transparency from drug companies if they want to raise the price of their products.

    The Fair Accountability and Innovative Research (FAIR) Drug Pricing Act is a bipartisan effort being spearheaded by senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, and John McCain, R-Arizona, with U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois. Baldwin said she and her colleagues wanted to pursue the bill in order to address concerns raised by people nationwide.

    “I have been hearing alarming stories from constituents who need to take prescription drugs to extend their lives and to help their wellbeing, and they’re reporting just massive increases in prices,” she said. “And there’s really very little that we find out these days about why this is happening.”

    Baldwin said the bill would require pharmaceutical companies seeking to raise the price of their drugs by 10 percent or more in a year (or 25 percent over three years) to provide extensive reports and justifications for the cost increase.

    She cites the jump in the price of the EpiPen as being an example where transparency would have been required.

    “There was no indication that (the EpiPen costs) more to manufacture, that the ingredients cost more, or that (the company) had invested in (research and development),” Baldwin said. “Perhaps they spent it on marketing, who knows?”

    That “who knows?” is one of the driving forces behind the legislation.

    Baldwin said requiring drug companies to provide this information would be the first step in understanding why some of these price increases can be so severe. But, Baldwin contends, it could confirm some suspicions that drug makers raise the prices “simply because they can.”

    She said requiring financial filings will help slow down some of these price hikes and help policy makers.

    “While I believe it will be a deterrent for some (companies), I also think it will arm and equip policy makers with the information needed to take next steps,” Baldwin said.

    Baldwin said she’d like to be able to see organizations like Medicare be able to use these filings to negotiate better prices for people insured through the federal program. She also said it could open the door for the safe import of pharmaceuticals from other countries where the prices are lower.

    Baldwin said over the years the issue of health care and drug price increases has become more partisan. But she said she feels working with McCain to make this a bipartisan bill will help with future reforms.

    “I do feel strongly that all of my colleagues in the United States Senate, and I’m sure all of the members of the House of Representatives, are hearing from their constituents on this topic because people are getting squeezed,” she said.

    Baldwin said the FAIR Drug Pricing Act does not stop drug companies from raising prices. But the legislation does require companies to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 30 days in advance of a price increase and submit their transparency reports to HHS to post publicly. In the legislation, drug companies could be fined $100,000 per day if they do not comply.

  • Food Friday: Make Desserts From Your Local Farmer's Market

    We speak with a pastry chef and author about making your own desserts using fresh ingredients found at your local farmer’s market.

  • Watermelon Pizza? Rhubarb Cardamom Cake? Desserts Using Ingredients From Farmers Market

    When you head to the farmers market people don’t usually go with goal of picking up ingredients for desserts. After all, what do watermelon and squash have to do with dessert?

    A lot, says Lei Shishak, a California-based pastry chef who wrote an entire book of dessert recipes built on produce found at farmers markets.

    “We really want to be supporting our local farmers. It’s really important to be putting money back into our community,” Shishak said. Farmers’ market desserts are one way to do that.

    Shishak shared some of her favorite recipes from the book, “Farm-to-Table Desserts: 80 Seasonal, Organic Recipes Made from Your Local Farmers’ Market.”

    Rhubarb Cardamom Cake

    This cake is similar to a pound cake, and makes a great dessert or breakfast loaf, Shishak said. There’s a thin layer of fresh rhubarb in the middle of the loaf as well as a thin layer of rhubarb on top.

    “It’s a wonderful way to use rhubarb, as opposed to something pretty common like a strawberry rhubarb pie,” she said.

    And the cardamom?

    “My parents are actually from India, so I like to use a lot of Indian spices, and cardamom is one of my favorites. It pairs surprisingly well with rhubarb,” Shishak said.

    Blueberry Crisp

    “I don’t like to manipulate the fruit too much, so the blueberries are just tossed with a little sugar, a little cinnamon, and then just a little flour to thicken up the crisp filling,” she said.

    Shishak tops the filling with a simple crisp made with flour, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar and some butter. You can read Shishak’s full blueberry crisp recipe here.

    Watermelon Pizza

    This fresh, pizza-shaped treat is perfect for the summer. Cut a watermelon into triangular wedges, top with small cherry tomatoes, fresh lemon juice and mint, and you’re done.

    Cantaloupe Soup

    All this recipe requires is some leftover cantaloupe, some sweetener and milk. Put it all in the blender, chill and serve with a cilantro garnish for a summer soup or mid-meal palate cleanser.

    White Fig Slab Pie

    White figs are very sweet, have a thin skin and can be eaten whole. The pie is made with a very thin dough, and the figs are tossed with honey and sugar.

    Other recipes in the book include strawberry hand pies, squash cake and rhubarb mint ice cream.

Episode Credits

  • Rob Ferrett Host
  • Veronica Rueckert Host
  • Rob Ferrett Producer
  • Veronica Rueckert Producer
  • Karl Christenson Producer
  • Alan Borsuk Guest
  • Tammy Baldwin Guest
  • Lei Shishak Guest
  • Rob Ferrett Interviewer
  • Veronica Rueckert Interviewer